HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A controversial bill to legalize cannabis passed the State Senate in the early hours of Tuesday by only 2 votes. Now, Republicans are calling for an investigation saying “the legislation has the stench of corruption.”
State Representative Vin Candelora, the Republican House minority leader, said Tuesday, “I think we do need to take a pause and not advance a piece of legislation that has the stench of corruption in it.”
The allegations are directed at a section of the marijuana bill that News 8 was first to report over the weekend.
“The fact that that provision got in that bill for one individual to profit off the state of Connecticut I have to ask the governor, at what cost are you willing to legalize marijuana?” asked Candelora.
Republicans came out swinging.
A section of the marijuana bill News 8 first reported on – Sunday – points to a marijuana cultivator by passing a lottery system to operate in Connecticut.
“Clearly that provision was made for a particular person and an equity owner.”
News 8 Chief Political Correspondent Jodi Latina has learned that person is the owner of Theraplant out of Watertown.
Off-camera, Democratic State Senator Doug McCrory told Latina he asked that a Connecticut company be part of the process. But after opponents cried foul – Governor Ned Lamont’s Office said they demanded that section be deleted.
Governor Lamont acknowledged the agreement to strike the section: “I think if we hadn’t caught it that wouldn’t have been good. We caught it, we got it out of there; it’s a good bill, vote for it.”
That’s not enough says the House Republican minority leader. He says his caucus found the controversial section after the draft language was released.
The Governor’s office acknowledged the language was posted after 9 p.m. Saturday night and they were informed as of Sunday morning.
A meeting was called and the section was deleted. An amendment to “fix” the underlying bill was filed before being voted on by the senate.
“This governor has not complied with freedom of information requests. And in light of what has happened with this piece of legislation concerning marijuana, it is important that we get to see those documents, those negotiations, and what actually happened behind closed doors,” added Candelora.
If the bill gets put up for a vote – Republicans plan to offer an amendment that would ban any elected official or state employee from getting into the cannabis business within five years of leaving state service.
“The last time I’ve seen legislation like this was with roll-your-own cigarettes, and we know how that worked out for the Democrats,” remarked Candelora.
The house minority leader was referring to a scandal from 2013 When former Speaker of the House Chris Donovan was facing heat for killing tobacco-related legislation. An independent investigator found no evidence that the Democratic state House speaker had any knowledge of contributions being secretly funneled to his congressional campaign in exchange for killing the legislation.
It is still unclear whether the cannabis bill will get a vote or if time will run out and a special session is called. The legislative session ends Wednesday at midnight.