Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont would like to see legal cannabis in his state, both because he would like to bring more money into Connecticut, and because he hopes legalization will help end racial disparity in arrests in the state. To make this a reality, he has introduced a bill to the legislature.
While Lamont realizes that this plan may take some extra convincing, since Republicans are likely to fight back throughout the legislative process, and Democrats would like to see an even more liberal bill, he feels good about being able to come up with a solution.
“This is the beginning of a discussion, not the end of a discussion,” he said regarding the proposal. “This has been a long time coming. We have been talking about this for ages,” Lamont said. “I think now is the time for legalized adult-use recreational marijuana in a carefully regulated way with an emphasis on equity and justice.”
The bill focuses on decriminalization, regulation, and generating revenue when it comes to the proposed, legal industry. This Friday, the state will hold a public hearing about the proposal.
If legalization passes, sales could begin in May of 2022. Projections reveal that Connecticut could raise as much as $33.6 million for the 2023 budget, and $97 million by 2026.
In order to ensure equity in the legal industry, the plan is to pivot police, prosecutors, and judges to focus only on dangerous criminal activity and forgo persecuting cannabis possession. Just last year, 7,500 people were arrested in Connecticut just for cannabis possession, which made up almost 10 percent of the total number of arrests.
Additionally, the new legislation would set up a method for clearing prior cannabis possessions from records, so that folks whose only crime was possessing cannabis can have equal opportunity in the job market.
Criticism Regarding Legalizaton
However, not everyone is on board with legalization. Rep. Holly Cheeseman, a Republican, supports the idea of being more lax on those whose only crime is expunging convictions, and she wants to see prior convictions cleared. However, she also worries about statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that claim one of 10 cannabis users will become addicted. For that reason, she is not in favor of full legalization.
“Let’s look at ways to increase economic opportunity and create jobs that don’t destroy lives,” Cheeseman said.
Still others are undecided about whether Connecticut is ready for adult-use legalization. Sen. Heather Summers, another Republican, is concerned about the implications for military contracts if the state becomes legal. She is concerned that there could be negative impacts to Connecticut acting as a home base for the design and manufacture of nuclear submarines.
“We have to weigh one of the largest employers in Connecticut vs. the revenue Connecticut would get,” said Somers, whose Senate district includes Electric Boat. “It puts us at a disadvantage when competing for Navy contracts,” she said.
If Connecticut does decide to legalize, it looks like there is more work to do to pass the proposal, but there are lots of possibilities for revenue if the state pulls the trigger.