Momentum is continuing to build for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Connecticut, although some key changes have been made to the legislation.
The Judiciary Committee voted 22-16 in favor of the revised bill yesterday, with all Republicans and three Democrats – Sen. Alex Kasser (D-Greenwich), Rep. Daniel Fox (D-Stamford) and Sen. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) – voting against it.
Senate Bill 888, formally introduced by Gov. Ned Lamont on Feb. 22, would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and purchase products from licensed stores, which could open as early as May 2022.
“I would submit that that is long overdue here in the state of Connecticut for a whole host of reasons,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Steve Stafstrom (D-Bridgeport) said, “not the least of which is that this is a drug that is widely believed to be less addictive and less harmful to the body than many other drugs that we already have legalized and regulate here in the state of Connecticut, including tobacco and alcohol.”
Key changes to the bill include:
• allowing those enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program – 52,000 as of April 4 – to grow up to six plants in their homes, beginning next year;
• permitting only existing medical marijuana establishments and “social equity applicants” to open retail stores from July 2021 to January 2024;
• requiring all such stores to have “social equity plans”; and
• that 55% of the revenue generated from the sale of marijuana be allocated to social-equity efforts, 15% to grants for prevention and addiction recovery services and 30% to the state’s general fund.
The perceived lack of a social equity aspect has been one of the main criticisms of the bill as originally written. With the amendments, in order to qualify as a social equity applicant, a business must have at least 51% ownership by a person with a cannabis-related arrest or conviction, or whose immediate family has had such an infraction; who has lived in a “disproportionately affected community” for five of the past 10 years; or who is a resident of tribal land.
The bill also includes a 6.35% sales and use tax and a 9.5% excise tax. It would also allow municipalities the option of implementing a 3% excise tax.
Stafstrom said the bill will likely next head to the state Finance Committee.