Connecticut Is on the Verge of Legalizing Marijuana

Connecticut is primed to become the 18th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

The state’s House of Representatives passed legislation to do so on Wednesday night, and with the Senate approving the latest version of the bill on Thursday, the only thing still needed to make it official is the signature of Democratic Governor Ned Lamont. He said on Thursday he intends to approve the bill. “I look forward to signing the bill and moving beyond this terrible period of incarceration and injustice,” he tweeted.

Here’s my statement on final approval by the Connecticut General Assembly of legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis.

I look forward to signing the bill and moving beyond this terrible period of incarceration and injustice. pic.twitter.com/H4DYBcbe0K

— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) June 17, 2021

Lamont’s signature wasn’t a given. Though he’s been supportive of the move to legalize cannabis, earlier this week he threatened to veto the legislation over an amendment holding that those with past cannabis arrests and convictions would be given priority status for licenses. Lamont argued this wasn’t specific enough, and that wealthy people with cannabis records shouldn’t be given the same priority as those from communities impacted by the War on Drugs. The legislature responded by setting an income limit for those seeking priority.

The tweak was apparently enough to allay Lamont’s concerns. “This measure is comprehensive, protects our children and the most vulnerable in our communities, and will be viewed as a national model for regulating the adult-use cannabis marketplace,” he wrote in a statement announcing his intent to sign the bill.

Lamont’s signature will legalize the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and over beginning July 1st. Home growing will be permitted, but only for medical patients at first.

A commercial marketplace is expected to be up and running by May 2022. Half of the available businesses licenses will be earmarked for social equity applicants, whom the state will offer technical training and financial assistance. A large portion of the tax revenue generated from commercial cannabis would be invested in communities impacted by the War on Drugs. Most possession convictions would be expunged by 2023, and people will be able to appeal to the state to have other-cannabis related convictions expunged beginning in July 2022.

Connecticut’s move to legalize cannabis is the latest indication of how quickly the United States is moving toward ending prohibition. Measures to legalize for either medicinal or recreational use passed in all five states that had them on the ballot last November, and Connecticut is the fourth state legislature to legalize cannabis for recreational use this year, joining New York, New Mexico, and Virginia.

Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, but Democrats in Congress have signaled they’re ready to push forward on what’s become one of the most bipartisan issues in America. “We’re going to get some support from the right on this, as well, we hope, and we’re going to push it,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last month. “It’s going to take a little while. We’re going to need a mass campaign. But there’s real excitement in the country to do this.”