CT Senate passes recreational marijuana vote again; Gov. threatens veto due to last-minute language change

Cannabis in Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The State Senate convened Tuesday for a special session, where lawmakers addressed the bill to legalize recreational marijuana and a bill to implement the budget.

RELATED: 2021 regular legislative session wrap up; Special session on cannabis, budget implementer set for next week

Just after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the State Senate passed the recreational marijuana bill 19 yay to 12 nay with five abstaining.

Last week, Gov. Ned Lamont urged lawmakers to deliver on a marijuana bill he strongly supports.

“Pass the bill. Let’s go. Vote on it and pass it,” Gov Lamont said. “We got you the most comprehensive bill in the country four months ago. A couple hundred pages. We know how to do this on a safe, regulated basis for adults. We know how to decommercialize it, which is so important.”

But the debate about legalizing cannabis for adults in Connecticut hit a brick wall Tuesday evening when language inserted by Senate Democrats was denounced by Governor Lamont.

The governor’s Chief of Staff Paul Mounds Jr. released a statement saying an amendment approved by the legislature Tuesday afternoon does not allow for equity and the governor will veto it if it comes to his desk.

The amendment approved by the Connecticut State Senate to adult-use cannabis bill this afternoon, simply put, does not meet the goals laid out during negotiations when it comes to equity and ensuring the wrongs of the past are righted.

To the contrary, this proposal opens the floodgates for tens of thousands of previously ineligible applicants to enter the adult-use cannabis industry. This last-minute amendment creates equity in name only by allowing these individuals expedited opportunity to obtain access to the marketplace.

Governor Lamont has said from the beginning that this legislation must allow those most impacted by the war on drugs to have a fair shot in the process to enter into this new industry. This measure as amended fails to achieve the goals and the needs of our state when it comes to equity.

Senate Bill 1201 now allows just about anyone with a history of cannabis crimes or a member of their family, regardless of financial means, who was once arrested on simple possession to be considered with the same weight as someone from a neighborhood who has seen many of their friends and loved ones face significant penalties and discrimination due to their past cannabis crimes. That is not equity, and Governor Lamont will veto this bill if it reaches his desk in its current form.”

Chief of Staff Paul Mounds Jr., Office of Governor Ned Lamont

Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven) said, “The governor believes we went too far, and that may be the case.”

Lawmakers say they have already reworked the bill twice, and they are hoping to have conversations with the governor before the bill gets too far along.

Sen Winfield added, “If it’s not good enough prior to the veto, that there would be a conversation about how we might proceed forward. And that is all I have given how recently the developments are.”

There is talk that the bill may be changed by the House when it reaches them Wednesday. They may be able to rework the equity piece to satisfy all parties involved, but it is an uphill battle.

Sen. Winfield: “Part of the issue is that we have a lot of voices around the table who understand this in multiple ways. We were making an attempt to address all of those issues, and whether or not we actually hit the target, is to be determined…But the governor says we didn’t.”

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly doesn’t believe in the legalization at all. He says it’s bad for the kids and the decision should not be made on money.

Sen. Kevin Kelly said, “Whether it was one special interest last week to a new special interest this week, it’s all insiders looking at splitting up the revenue generated by marijuana. It’s why so many lobbyists are involved, and I don’t think we should be making this policy choice based on money.”

Sen. Kevin Kelly released an official statement Wednesday, adding “Over the last two weeks we’ve seen fingerprints of the well-connected all over this bill.”

Right now, the bill has passed the Senate and is heading to the House. They may be able to make changes that will satisfy the governor, but now, the bill is treading water in uncertainty.

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