Newly sworn-in Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) recently pledged that marijuana legalization would be among the “priorities” for the 2019 legislative session.
Now lawmakers appear to be following through on the governor’s wishes to focus on cannabis reform this year.
On Thursday, more than a quarter of the members of the state House of Representatives jointly filed a bill to end marijuana prohibition and create a system of legal, taxed and regulated sales for adults over 21.
Home cultivation of up to six plants would be allowed, as would delivery services. The legislation would also expunge prior marijuana possession convictions.
Forty-two out of the chamber’s 151 members are already signed on to the proposal as cosponsors. That includes the chairs of the key Judiciary and Appropriations Committees, as well as the House majority leader.
“It’s great to see such a large group of representatives listening to their constituents, who overwhelmingly support regulating marijuana like alcohol,” Sam Tracy, director of the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, told Marijuana Moment in an interview. “While Connecticut voters have supported marijuana legalization for many years, it truly seems like 2019 will be the year our elected officials finally pass a bill.”
Twenty-five percent of cannabis growing, processing, wholesale and retail licenses would be earmarked for businesses located in the state’s “enterprise zones,” which are designated as areas with particularly high poverty or unemployment rates, or where a significant portion of the population relies on public assistance.
The bill proposes that revenue from legal sales would be directed toward drug education and treatment, cannabis testing services, a public campaign to prevent impaired driving and a study of the impact of legalization. Marketing and advertising would be banned.
Medical cannabis would be regulated separately and would be exempted from retail sales taxes and excise taxes, though existing medical marijuana dispensaries would “have initial access to recreational licensing.” The Department of Consumer Protection, which would generally provide oversight of the marijuana program, would develop guidelines for issuing other licenses.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D) pledged in a recent interview to push legalization forward this year.
Even the House Republican deputy minority leader, who opposes legalization, says he “would think it would pass” when it is brought to a vote on the floor. “Many of those opposed to legalization have left the Legislature.”
Meanwhile, in the other legislative chamber, the state Senate president, who sponsored a legalization bill last year that didn’t advance to passage, says that passing a measure in 2019 would be “a significant revenue item” for the state.
“It’s particularly encouraging to see so many major committee chairs signed onto this legislation,” Tracy, of the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, said. “Bills to regulate marijuana have previously gone before the Judiciary, Appropriations, Public Health, and General Law Committees, and three out of those four committees’ House chairs are sponsors. That means this bill should get the attention it deserves, and has an even better chance of making it to Governor Lamont’s desk.”
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.