By: Karley Grady
Date: August 9, 2021
An eventful week during the course of June 15-17th of 2021 resulted in Connecticut being the 19th state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Governor Ned Lamont signed off on the bill, who thinks the use of marijuana can create positive outcomes. Ned Lamont stated, “We had a chance to learn from others, and I think we’ve got it right here in the state of Connecticut, maybe we weren’t the first but we were the first, I think, to show that we can get it right.” Supporting Ned Lamont is House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, who had told reporters, “This is the best bill in the country and it’s going to move us in a direction of ensuring that we provide a well-regulated marketplace for adult-use cannabis for adults who want to participate in that kind of activity.” Similar to the states that have legalized recreational use, Connecticut has implemented many regulations that will outline the limits of possession and use, as well as a plan to support disproportionately impacted communities.
The newly created laws allow individuals of ages 21 and older to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis or cannabis products. In addition, there will be a five-ounce possession limit for inconspicuous storage in areas such as a glove box, residence, or vehicle’s trunk. Recreational use will be allowed in all areas except workplaces, facilities that prohibit use, and establishments mentioned in the Clean Indoor Air Act.
Although recreational use is permitted, self-cultivation will not be authorized until July 1 of 2023.
To establish boundaries on the use and possession, the bill touches base on the decriminalization of marijuana and the consequences of holding greater than what’s permitted. Rather than issuing jail time on the first offense of unlawful possession, the state will impose civil fines. Beyond the first offense, the state will issue misdemeanors and jail sentences depending on the severity. The state also plans to expunge thousands of past records in relation to marijuana convictions.
The bill details a specific tax plan that allocates revenue of marijuana sales. This plan will initiate in the year 2023, as retail sales are not expected to begin until 2022. Retail establishments will impose a cannabis sales tax of 6.35%, municipal gross receipts tax of 3%, and specific excise taxes contingent on the milligrams purchased each sale. Between the years 2023-2026, significant amounts of excise tax will be allocated into the General Fund, Prevention and Recovery Services Fund, and the Social Equity and Innovation Fund. Sales tax will be distributed among streetscape improvements and other neighborhood developments, youth employment and training programs, mental health and addiction services, community civic engagement efforts, and additional areas that provide support to communities. Inclusion of up to 75% of the revenue earned will also be dedicated towards equity efforts and community reinvestment.
For further support, the legislation enacted that 50% of cannabis establishment licenses be reserved for Equity Applicants, which typically include residents of communities that have been disproportionately impacted by drug-related crimes and high unemployment.
Despite some of the critics who believe legalization was a choice of greed, Senator Gary Winfield and Co-Chairman of the Judiciary Committee rejected those claims and emphasized that the decision was made to “address the long-standing harmful impacts of the nation’s war on drugs, especially in minority communities.” As the bill’s purpose is to tackle racial inequities stemmed from the nation’s war on drugs, Connecticut has set an example as to why cannabis legalization should be expanded into the federal level.
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