Connecticut poised to become 19th state to legalize cannabis!
Last update: June 17, 2021
A bill to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and over has received final approval from both chambers of Connecticut’s legislature. S.B. 1201, sponsored by Senate President Martin Looney and House Speaker Matt Ritter, passed the Senate and House of Representatives in a special session by margins of 16-11 and 76-62, respectively. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Ned Lamont, who is expected to sign it into law.
S.B. 1201 will legalize possession of up to one and a half ounces for adults 21 and over. The bill will go into effect on July 1, 2021, with legal sales anticipated by May 2022. Adults will be allowed to securely cultivate cannabis at home starting July 1, 2023. A full summary of the bill is available here, and a comparison between it and other state legalization laws is available here.
In addition to legalizing cannabis, S.B. 1201 includes expungement of lower-level cannabis records and dedicates the bulk of excise tax revenues to a Social Equity and Innovation Fund, which will be used to promote a diverse cannabis industry and reinvest in hard-hit communities. Half of new cannabis business licenses will be issued to social equity applicants, who can receive technical assistance, start-up funding, assistance from an accelerator program, and workforce training.
MPP is proud to have played a leading role in the multi-year effort to legalize cannabis in Connecticut, with a focus on equity and reparative justice. We are grateful to legislative leadership, the governor’s office, advocates, and lawmakers for working to get cannabis past the finish line and to get it done right. Many thanks to our amazing Regulate CT lobbying and advocacy team — MPP’s senior legislative counsel DeVaughn Ward; Paul Nuñez and the staff of Depino, Nuñez, and Biggs; Adam Wood of City and State Public Affairs; and Hillary Glass of Reynolds Strategy Group for all of their insight and assistance.
Congratulations to the Constitution State on this huge victory!
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 added to the urgency of Connecticut ending its failed war on cannabis. CCEA’s study showed 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 projected:
$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.
Medical marijuana program information; program expanded to include chronic pain
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.
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.
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.