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Connecticut could be the next piece of the New England puzzle to get on board with legalizing recreational pot.
The Constitution State decriminalized cannabis in 2011, and it got medical marijuana laws in 2012. In spring of 2018, a recreational cannabis bill was approved by the Appropriations Committee and it was sent to the General Assembly. This week, two key legislative committees have voted to advance that bill.
The considerations moved from ‘if’ CT should legalize to ‘how’ CT should legalize last Friday, when two panels full of Connecticut lawmakers simultaneously heard testimony about two bills that detailed the exact steps the state could take to fully legalize marijuana. Members of the legislature’s General Law Committee and the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee listened to advocates, experts, and constituents on a range of topics—things like the public health and safety impacts of legalization, labeling requirements, mental health concerns, and the potential significance of expunging records of those with low level cannabis convictions.
This week, the Connecticut General Law Committee voted 10 to 8 to advance the bill they reviewed to legalize recreational marijuana. The language of that bill focuses on how to start a legal cannabis market with an eye on social equity. Those provisions are aimed at encouraging people from communities that were hit hardest by the War on Drugs to take part in the world’s newest legalized industry.
The bill would also establish a commission to regulate the entire outfit. That commission would be appointed by the Governor, and it would be required to study the impact of potentially allowing home grows and microbusinesses like pot delivery operators.
Although it looks like it has legs, there are still many steps ahead before Connecticut sees any recreational laws take effect. There are a lot of loose ends here—such as the specifics of delivery licensing—and they’ve yet to consider social consumption sites at all.
The Judiciary Committee is also still preparing to vote on a few pieces of marijuana related legislation—like one that would create a misdemeanor penalty for driving while on weed, and another to specify that employers don’t have to provide accommodations for employees who use cannabis while at work. That panel is voting on whether to advance its cannabis bills on Thursday this week.
While they work out the details of how it will be done, we do know one thing for sure; If a rec bill ends up on Governor Ned Lamont’s desk, he is signing it into law. He tweets: “It’s time for CT to legalize marijuana for recreational use. We should expunge criminal charges for simple possession. This will lead to a safer market, and some of the proceeds can be used to correct historical wrongs and support addiction services.”
So, while it may seem like there is a lot of paperwork ahead, Connecticut is currently taking the lead as one of the most likely states to fully legalize cannabis in 2019.