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Connecticut passes recreational marijuana bill

·Reporter
·3 min read

Connecticut has become the latest U.S. state to pass legislation authorizing adult recreational use of marijuana. Washington D.C., Guam, and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island have also legalized adult recreational use.

On Thursday, the state’s legislature voted to broaden its policy that so far has limited use of the drug for medical purposes. Gov. Ned Lamont, who helped introduce the bill, is expected to sign the bill into law.

“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war," Lamont said in a statement on Thursday. "The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety."

Under Senate Bill 1201, approved by the state's senate on Thursday, slated to become effective on July 1, adults 21 and older can legally purchase and possess marijuana for recreational use. Individual possession limits are capped at 1.5 ounces of cannabis or equivalent cannabis concentrate, with up to 5 ounces of cannabis or equivalent cannabis concentrate permitted in a locked container.

University of Connecticut grad student Peter Apicella works with a cannabis plant in a UConn greenhouse growing THC-free hemp. UConn began teaching a marijuana horticulture class this semester. (Mark Mirko/Tribune News Service via Getty Images via Getty Images)
University of Connecticut grad student Peter Apicella works with a cannabis plant in a UConn greenhouse growing THC-free hemp.(Mark Mirko/Tribune News Service via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Recreational retail sales are not scheduled to begin until May of next year, according to the measure. And residents looking to grow marijuana plants for their own recreational use will have to wait to do so until 2023. Home cultivation for authorized medical patients can begin as soon as October this year. 

In February, Lamont published revenue projections estimating that sales from an adult-use cannabis program starting in May 2022 would generate tax revenues of approximately $33.6 million by fiscal year 2023. According to the estimate, that number would jump to $97 million by fiscal year 2026.

The vote by Connecticut's lawmakers comes amid a wave of recent state legalizations, including by regional neighbors New Jersey and New York, and others still scheduled to take effect this year.

New Jersey residents officially voted to legalize recreational weed beginning January 1. New York followed and green-lighted adult use on March 31.

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New Mexico’s law authorizing recreational adult use and retail production and sales goes into effect on June 29. Virginia lawmakers voted in April to legalize personal use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana, starting July 1. In South Dakota, an amendment to the state's constitution to legalize recreational use, adopted by voters in November, was scheduled to take effect July 1. However, a challenge to the amendment is currently pending in the state’s Supreme Court.

Connecticut had previously decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The new law both provides for expungement of certain criminal cannabis possession convictions handed down between January 2000, and September 15, 2015, based on possession of less than 4 ounces, and prohibits employers from taking adverse action against workers based solely upon positive cannabis tests.

The newly passed bill also provides for a Social Equity Council and Social Equity and Innovation Fund to appropriate marijuana sales tax revenues and marijuana business licenses to lower-income applicants who have lived in geographic areas disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. Particulars of the provision proved a sticking point in the days prior to the final vote. 

Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance and former litigation attorney. Follow Alexis Keenan on Twitter @alexiskweed.

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