With its neighboring states embracing marijuana legalization, Connecticut is now ready to get in on the act.
The state’s governor, Ned Lamont, outlined his plan to bring recreational pot to Connecticut in his budget address on Wednesday.
“Now our neighboring states are offering recreational marijuana on a legal and regulated basis,” Lamont, a Democrat, said in a pre-recorded address. “Massachusetts dispensaries are advertising extensively here in Connecticut. And, rather than surrender this market to out-of-staters, or worse, to the unregulated underground market, our budget provides for the legalization of recreational marijuana.”
“These additional revenues will go to distressed communities, which have been hardest hit by the war on drugs,” he continued. “Half the tax revenues should be allocated to PILOT payments, in addition to a three percent local excise tax option. And importantly, my proposed legislation authorizes the automated erasure of criminal records for those with marijuana-related drug possession, convictions, and charges.”
As Lamont noted, Massachusetts voters passed a measure legalizing recreational marijuana for adults in 2016. And his call for Connecticut to end prohibition comes a month after New York’s own Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, offered up his own legalization proposal.
New York and Connecticut
The two northeastern governors will go at it alone two years after they sought a coordinated legalization effort between the two states. Cuomo and Lamont held a summit in the fall of 2019, where they discussed a cross-state legalization strategy, with the New York leader saying they were “serious in this state about legalizing recreational use of marijuana, but it has to be done right.”
And both used their “State of the State” addresses a year ago to call on lawmakers in their respective states to pass legalization, with Lamont once again voicing his preference for a cross-state policy.
“Like it or not, legalized marijuana is a short drive away in Massachusetts and New York is soon to follow,” Lamont said at the time. “Coordinated regional regulation is our best chance to protect public health by displacing illicit sellers with trusted providers.”
“Right now, what you can buy legally in Massachusetts could land you in prison for up to a year in Connecticut,” he continued. “We just marked the 100th anniversary of prohibition. How did that work out? The patchwork of cannabis and vaping laws are impossible to enforce.”
Under Lamont’s proposal unveiled this week, adult use cannabis sales would begin in May 2022. Adults aged 21 and older would be permitted to have possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, although the proposal says that growing pot at home is not allowed (the criminal penalties for such would be “substantially reduced,” however).
“Governor Lamont proposes a comprehensive framework for the cultivation, manufacture, sale, possession, use, and taxation of adult-use cannabis that prioritizes public health, public safety, and social justice,” the introduction of Lamont’s proposal reads. “The proposal builds on the significant work that the Legislature has done on adult-use cannabis in recent sessions and ensures alignment with the approaches pursued by states in our region.”