HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont declared the legalization of recreational marijuana is one of his top priorities for this legislative session. So far, 14 states have legalized recreational cannabis, including nearby Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Lamont outlined his proposal for Senate Bill 888 Wednesday morning at a roundtable discussion. He is all for doing it “responsibly and equitably.”
The governor’s proposal would allow the recreational use of marijuana for adults — anyone over 21-years-old.
Part of the opening of the market could include:
- Business licenses being handed out by lottery.
- Existing medical businesses having the option to convert to adult-use.
- Automatic erasure of convictions related to pot possession.
However, conviction erasure would apply to only those found guilty of pot possession prior to Oct. 1, 2015. Those convicted after that date can petition for the erasure of their record.
There is a $2 million in technology bond to help with erasure in the judicial system. Equity commissions will be set up and charged with making sure communities of color benefit from the new legal market.
“Let’s be blunt about it,” remarked Governor Ned Lamont. “My kid is less likely than a Black kid to be arrested if a half-ounce of pot is found in the seat next to him and that’s fundamentally unfair.”
Arunan Arulampalam the Deputy Commissioner of the State’s Department of Consumer Protection said he knows all too well about the struggle of communities where convictions have held people back: “This is about making generations of change and it takes a while.”
It will also help preserve the medical market that currently serves 50,000 patients state-wide.
The governor also said cannabis would be well-regulated for safety and would limit marketing to children. But not everyone is convinced it’s a good idea.
State Representative and Republican House Minority Leader Vin Candelora questioned, “Should we be limiting the THC levels in the drug? Should we be banning products like sodas and gummy bears which are attractive to children?”
Cities and towns would be allowed to zone out where cannabis businesses are opened.
Here are some proposed requirements upon legalization:
- Homegrown pot would not be allowed.
- 1.5 ounces allowed on a person (you can get a ticket for having more).
- “Drugged driving” could be a suspension of your driver’s license.
In terms of finances, three percent of tax revenues will be sent back to cities and towns. By 2026, the state would make $97 million in revenue.
There are challenges as marijuana is still illegal by federal guidelines.
How does a business, which has a defense contract, deal with this if it becomes law?
Employees who work for a business with a defense contract would not be able to use marijuana.
The Commissioner of the State Department of Consumer Protection said federal rules override any state law. In the governor’s proposal, your employer could bring a “private right of action.”
State Representative Mike D’Agostino the Democratic Chair of the General Law Committee overseeing the debate said, “We are aware there are limitations [with] what we can and can’t do with federal law.”
And what about banks? How do you make a money transaction on a substance that is illegal to the federal government, which oversees the banking industry?
The legislation requires the state’s banking department to study and review – ultimately making recommendations on how to handle the federal issue.