Legislative committee approves legal marijuana bill

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For the first time ever, a legislative committee has approved a bill to legalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana in Connecticut.  

The final vote came late Monday afternoon in the General Law Committee. The party line vote was 10 to 8.

For the past five years, advocates for the legalization of recreational marijuana use by adults have tried in vain to get at least one bill passed by a legislative committee.

That finally happened Monday when the General Law Committee approved a bill that would establish licensing for marketing and selling cannabis and cannabis products in Connecticut.

This is just solely the regulatory piece, the regulatory structure. How we’re going to regulate it. How we’re going to do the application process. Who’s going to be able to do what, said Rep. Michael D’Agostino (D-Hamden), the co-chair of the committee.

This bill would give preference in licensing legal cannabis sellers to people in the communities that have been most impacted by the enforcement of anti-marijuana laws in the past. That is presumably to be mostly people of color in urban areas.

Related Content: Lawmakers held public hearing on legalizing marijuana at State Capitol Friday

Democratic New Haven State Rep. Juan Candelaria has been pushing this for years, and said, This bill tries to attempt at providing equities for those individuals that have been disproportionately impacted, so I think it’s the right thing to do.

But many of the Republicans on the committee voted no because of that provision in the regulations.

The problem I have is that they’re putting folks that have been arrested in front of law-abiding citizens for the ability to get a license to sell marijuana if we move in that direction, said Sen, Kevin Witkos (R-Canton).

Other Republicans on the committee are simply opposed to any effort to legalize beyond medical marijuana.

Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford) said, I think it’s a mistake for any state to be legalizing marijuana. It’s another addictive drug we’re going to be introducing into society and no good can come of it.

There are two other bills that will be needed for this; One to remove criminal records from those convicted of marijuana offenses in the past, and one to establish a tax rate for legal marijuana. 

Both of those proposals face separate votes in other committees in the weeks ahead.

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