The governor of Connecticut reiterated his support for legalizing marijuana during his annual State of the State address on Wednesday, pledging to cooperate with lawmakers to advance the issue in 2021.
“I am working with our neighboring states and look forward to working with our tribal partners on a path forward to modernize gaming in our state, as well as the legislature on legalization of marijuana,” the Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said in the speech, delivered in a video on the first day of the new session. “Sports betting, internet gaming and legalized marijuana are happening all around us. Let’s not surrender these opportunities to out-of-state markets or, even worse, underground markets.”
Lamont also pushed for legalization of cannabis in State of the State speech last year, and in a budget address the prior year.
But lawmakers in the state have repeatedly declined to advance legalization measures in recent years, including most recently a bill that Democrats put forward last year on Lamont’s behalf.
Despite the failures, new House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) said in November that legalization in the state is “inevitable,” adding later that month: “I think it’s got a 50–50 chance of passing [in 2021], and I think you should have a vote regardless.”
If the effort to pass legalization through the state legislature fails to get traction, Ritter has said, he will attempt to put a constitutional question on the state’s 2022 ballot that would leave the matter to voters. A poll published last March found that nearly two-thirds of voters (63.4 percent) either “strongly” or “somewhat” supported legalization for adult use.
Supportive lawmakers have stressed that the state needs to update its cannabis policy in light of legalization in nearby states. “It’s now legal in New Jersey, New York is coming, and it’s legal in Massachusetts,” Ritter said late last year. “Connecticut cannot fortify its border.”
“Folks literally take something called a car,” he quipped at a late November press conference, “and they drive in their car and they buy it.”
Lamont, meanwhile, likened the need for regional coordination on marijuana issues to the coronavirus response, saying officials have “got to think regionally when it comes to how we deal with the pandemic—and I think we have to think regionally when it comes to marijuana, as well.”
He added that legalization in Connecticut could potentially reduce the spread of COVID-19 by limiting out-of-state trips to buy marijuana.
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In Connecticut, Democrats will have bigger majorities in the legislature this term than in years past, but Ritter has predicted “a very, very close vote in the House.”
Incoming House Majority Leader Jason Rojas (D) and Rep. Michael D’Agostino (D), chairman of the House General Law Committee, joined Ritter at November’s press event to encourage support for the policy change.
“This is not the most pressing issue we’re facing as a state,” Rojas said at the time, but “perhaps it’s the most nagging one.”