After Weeks of Uncertainty, Connecticut Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis

Nearly two weeks after the State Senate first voted on Connecticut’s adult-use cannabis bill, Governor Ned Lamont signed it into law. Starting July 1st, Connecticut will become the 19th state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older.

The adult-use bill had a bit of a bumpy ride this June, failing to be voted upon by the State House during the regular legislative session. From there, the vote got pushed to a special legislative session which began on June 15th. Both the House and the Senate voted to approve the adult-use bill, but only with some notable modifications. These changes include allowing those with past marijuana convictions to qualify for social equity licenses and preventing lawmakers from entering into the cannabis industry until they have been out of office for more than two years.

As the bordering states of New York and Massachusetts have already legalized cannabis for adult use, many feared that Connecticut was falling behind its neighbors. However, not everyone has been on board with The Constitution State’s plan to legalize recreational marijuana. Connecticut House Republican leader Vincent Candelora strongly opposed the marijuana legalization bill which he called “tainted” because of a narrow provision that would have benefitted only one entity. This provision was ultimately removed by the Senate at the request of the Governor, but this did not stop Candelora from calling for “an investigation in the governor’s office and the Democrats’ offices on how this provision came to be.” Similarly, the town of Prospect has already unanimously approved a ban on recreational marijuana stores and facilities to be opened within their jurisdiction.

Connecticut’s cannabis legalization bill mirrors many of the recent adult-use and legalization efforts across the country. Some of the fundamental provisions of the bill include:

  • Adults 21 and over may possess up to one and a half (1.5) ounces of cannabis with up to five (5) ounces in a secured home or vehicle.
  • Home cultivation will be permitted, first to medical marijuana patients and later on to adult-use consumers.
  • A retail market would be established by the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) which would also be responsible for issuing licenses for growers, retailers, manufacturers, and delivery services, with sales anticipated to launch in May of 2022.
  • The number of licenses granted cannot initially exceed one per 25,000 residents.
  • Half of the licenses are to be granted to social equity applicants—defined as people who have lived in geographic areas disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs and who make no more than three times the state’s median income.
  • The bill prohibits DCP from awarding a cannabis establishment to any applicant that, when the lottery is conducted: (1) has two or more licenses; or (2) includes a backer that has managerial control of, or is a backer for, two or more licenses in the same license type or category for which the applicant has entered the lottery. However, an ownership interest in an equity joint venture or a social equity partner is disregarded for purposes of this limitation.
  • The state’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries can convert to “hybrid retailers” serving both medical patients and adult-use consumers. In order to convert, applicants must have a Social Equity Council-approved workforce development plan and pay a fee of $1 million, or $500,000 if the dispensary has committed to creating at least one equity joint venture.
  • The state’s general sales tax of 6.35 percent would apply, with an additional excise tax based on THC content imposed. A 3 percent municipal tax will also be authorized, which must be used for community reinvestment.
  • Local municipalities can prohibit cannabis businesses from opening but cannot ban cannabis deliveries within their jurisdictions. They are also permitted to set reasonable limits on the number of licensed businesses, their locations, operating hours, and signage.

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