The Connecticut Senate early Tuesday narrowly approved a long-awaited bill that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis in the state after years of failed efforts in both chambers to pass the legislation.
The 19-17 vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate came just before 2 a.m. and hours after lawmakers announced they had reached a compromise on how to ensure the new industry will benefit those residents adversely affected by the nation’s war on drugs. Six Democrats voted against the proposal.
“We’ve seen what’s been wrought by having a war on drugs. Whole communities have been decimated,” said state Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
The bill now heads to the House, where Democratic majority leaders said they expect it to pass before Wednesday’s adjournment of the legislative session. Gov Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said he would sign the legislation.
If the proposal is approved, Connecticut will join 18 other states that already allow recreational marijuana possession and use, which federal law continues to ban.
Critics of the bill included Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, the top Republican senator on the Judiciary Committee who supported Connecticut’s existing medical marijuana program.
“I think it’s a big mistake,” he said, arguing it sends a “horrible message” to young people. “How many had parents who said, ‘If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do that?’ No. All of a handful of other states are doing this. Why should we?”
Under the bill, it would be legal for people 21 years and older to possess and use cannabis beginning July 1. A person would be allowed to have up to 1.5 ounces, with an additional five ounces secured in their home or vehicle. Homegrown cannabis, however, will not counted toward that allowed amount.
Beginning Oct. 1, 2022, the legislation makes it legal for medical marijuana patients in the state to have three mature and three immature plants, with a limit of 12 plants per household. By July 1, 2023, any adult in Connecticut will be allowed to have the same amount of plants.
Meanwhile, the retail sale of cannabis would begin in May 2022. Under the program, municipalities would receive new revenue generated by a 3% local sales tax on gross receipts based on retail cannabis sales within their borders. It would also be subject to the state’s 6.35% sales tax.
The bill also would automatically erase certain drug possession convictions that occurred between Jan. 1, 2000, and Oct. 1, 2015. If someone’s conviction falls outside that time period, they could petition to have it erased.
Associated Press writer Dave Collins contributed to this report.