In early 2020, Gov. Ned Lamont proposed a legalization bill that was introduced by the former House Speaker and the Senate President. However, the 2020 legislative session stalled as the coronavirus forced legislative leaders to shutter their office buildings. Gov. Lamont has suggested that he plans to revisit legalization in the 2021 session.
MPP, Regulate Connecticut, and its member organizations are continuing to work to enact an equitable system of legal cannabis regulation. Stay tuned for our General Election voter guide, information about town halls, and opportunities to get involved. For updates, please sign up for our email alerts, and follow the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana on Facebook and Twitter.
New study finds legalization will produce significant economic growth for Connecticut
On September 16, 2020, the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis (CCEA) released a study — commissioned by MPP — that adds to the urgency of Connecticut ending its failed war on cannabis. CCEA’s study shows legalizing and regulating cannabis would lessen the economic pain wrought by COVID-19 by creating and preserving thousands of jobs and generating hundreds of millions in new tax revenue.
The study projects:
$692 to $740 million in total direct state tax revenue over five years of sales;
$35 to $53 million in direct state cannabis tax revenue in the first year of sales;
$223 to $287 million in direct state cannabis tax revenue in year five of sales;
$71 million in municipal tax revenue over five years of sales;
$21 million in municipal tax revenue in year five of sales;
10,244 to 17,462 new or preserved jobs by year five of legal sales; and
5,344 to 5,686 new or preserved jobs in year one of sales alone.
You can read a summary of the study’s key findings here. After you’ve had a chance to read it, you can help add to the drumbeat of supporters calling for sensible and equitable drug reform by spreading the word and by writing your legislators to urge them to support legalizing cannabis for adults.
Governor and legislative leaders push to end cannabis prohibition in 2020
In spring 2019, three legislative committees advanced bills to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis, but the legislature adjourned without bringing them to a floor vote. With renewed leadership from the governor, MPP and our allies were optimistic when the 2020 legislative session convened that this would be the year Connecticut finally ends cannabis prohibition. However, coronavirus-related closures stalled progress until later this year or 2021.
In February 2020, for the first time, Gov. Lamont's sponsored a cannabis regulation bill — a summary of which is is available here. Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D) and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D) introduced his proposal, Governor’s Bill No. 16, and it received a March 2 hearing in the Judiciary Committee.
Prior to the hearing, the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana joined together with veterans, civil rights activists, clergy, law enforcement, healthcare professionals, minority business advocates, economists, social workers, state leaders, and legislators to voice support for action on the governor’s bill and stayed to testify at the public hearing. MPP’s testimony can be found here. The deadline for moving the bill out of committee was March 30, and it appeared on track until the coronavirus shut down the legislature and derailed almost all legislative work.
Although progress has been delayed, the public is overwhelmingly behind legalization: A January 2020 poll published by GQR confirmed, once again, that Connecticut residents strongly support legalizing cannabis, with 65 percent responding in favor.
Connecticut’s medical marijuana program was originally enacted on June 1, 2012. The program protects patients and caregivers from arrest and prosecution if they have a valid registration card and if the medical marijuana was obtained from the specific dispensary where the patient is registered.
In 2016, both regulators and lawmakers expanded Connecticut’s medical marijuana program.
Connecticut expands medical cannabis program to include chronic pain
On June 2, 2020, the Connecticut Legislative Regulations Review Committee approved allowing medical cannabis to treat chronic pain — although it narrowly defined the term. The Board of Physicians recommended adding chronic pain as a qualifying condition on September 27, 2019. Previously, Connecticut was the only state medical marijuana program that did not permit patients to treat chronic pain with medical cannabis.
The revision permits medical cannabis to be recommended for adults with “chronic pain of at least six months duration associated with a specific underlying chronic condition refractory to other treatment intervention.” Unfortunately, that narrow definition means physicians can only recommend cannabis to patients who have sought treatment for their chronic pain for at least six months and whose pain has been resistant to other treatments.
The committee also approved the use of medical cannabis to treat Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, an inherited disorder that weakens the body’s connective tissue and leads to weakened blood vessels and organs.
While these revisions undoubtedly expand patients’ ability to use medical cannabis to treat their aliments, Connecticut will have one of the most restrictive chronic pain provisions in the country. Patients will have to suffer for months before trying cannabis and will first be steered to far more dangerous medications.
It’s our hope that the Connecticut Legislature takes up the issue of adult-use cannabis in a special session this year or during the 2021 regular session. Many individuals who suffer from conditions that can be treated with cannabis aren’t able to access it. In addition, no adult should be penalized for using substance that is safer than alcohol.
For more information about the program, including a current list of qualifying conditions and symptoms, click here.
Since 2011, possession of a half-ounce or less of marijuana has been a civil violation in Connecticut, punishable by a fine of up to $150, meaning it is not a jailable offense. Subsequent offenses are subject to increased fines ranging from $200-$500. Upon a third violation, offenders are referred to a drug awareness program. In addition to the fine, anyone under 21 who is found in possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana faces a 60-day suspension of his or her driver’s license.
Although Connecticut has improved its marijuana laws in recent years, adults are still being punished for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol, while most crimes with victims go unsolved.
Volunteer: To take your involvement a step further, volunteer! Let us know if you’re up for tabling, writing a letter-to-the-editor, phone banking, or otherwise getting more involved. We’re also looking influential voices in the debate — please be sure to fill out the form and let us know if you are a supportive member of clergy, law enforcement, educator, medical or substance abuse professional, veteran, or a person who was harmed by cannabis prohibition.