HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The journey to legalize cannabis in Connecticut has deep roots. In 2009 decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana was an idea. In 2011, it was passed into law. Fast forward to 2021, a decade later and Connecticut will be the 19th state in the nation to pass the legalization of marijuana.
Most states pass policies like this through a ballot initiative allowing residents to vote on the issue. In Connecticut the process some say was a struggle because it was handled through the legislative process.
Lt. Governor Susan Byscewicz gaveled and announced “The legislation is passed.”
By a margin of 5 votes, State Senators pass a bill legalizing marijuana in Connecticut. State Senator Martin Looney the Democratic Senate President said Prohibition was a lesson; “People drank alcohol before prohibition during prohibition and after prohibition, the same will be true with cannabis. When people wanna use a product they will find a way to use a product whether it’s legal or not.”
Republicans objected to the policy shift saying pot is illegal in the eyes of the federal government and a danger to public health.
State Senator Kevin Kelly the Republican Senate Minority Leader says while the legislature banned flavored tobacco vapes this session it is hypocritical that they ignored flavored gummies made with cannabis. “The Democrats are going to legalize a commodity that is sold in gummy‘s that’s inconsistent but they’re not removing that from the bill.”
Vowing earlier in the week to veto the bill over controversial language surrounding equity, the Governor says the third time was the charm.
“It’s got a Real emphasis on equity and a real emphasis on public health whatever we do we do it safely and I think they got it right,” said Governor Ned Lamont.
State Senator Gary Winfield, a Democrat from New Haven, – one of the authors of the legislation says “Despite all of the, what I would actually term as fear-mongering it’s good policy.”
Winfield says Connecticut needed to prepare for the cannabis economy that is sweeping the nation.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations with people from Colorado Massachusetts and other states to legalize cannabis drug,” added Senator Winfield.
Commercial sales are slated for next year. The department of consumer protection will grant licenses through a lottery. As a former Police Officer – State Senator Dan Champagne a Republican from Vernon is concerned the policy will create law enforcement issues.
“If I see someone driving down the road and drinking a beer I could pull them over. If I’m standing outside their car and they drive by me in the middle of a carnival and they’re smoking marijuana and I can smell the marijuana, I cannot stop them,” explained Senator Champagne.
Police Departments will have to get officers trained, and ready to test. But officials say there are few drug recognition officers.
“In order to send to officers – when I priced it was over $13,000 for two officers. And currently, they do have to go out of state yes, ”added Champagne.
Selling marijuana is expected to raise tens of millions of dollars. But up to 75% of the tax revenue will be funneled to an equity fund. The remaining proceeds will go the state general fund.
State Senator Martin Looney the Democratic Senate President explains where the money will go. “Some of it will of course go to the state. There is a sin tax on it, but a lot of it is going to be to support social service programs in communities that have been historically affected by the criminalization of cannabis over the years.”
Governor Lamont has said he will probably sign the bill in the next week. This means July first –
in 14 days residents who are 21-years old can smoke marijuana legally in our state.