Lamont signs bill making CT the 19th state to legalize recreational cannabis

Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation just after noon on Tuesday legalizing possession and use of marijuana for adults, and creating a market that is expected to lead to retail sales in 2022.

The law places Connecticut ahead of most or all states in using cannabis legalization to reverse years of inequity in criminal prosecution that heavily targeted low-income residents and people of color. It includes significant measures to assure participation in the industry by so-called equity applicants – though not as much as some advocates wanted – and it steers most of the state’s projected revenue into disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Lamont chose the historic Old Appropriations Room in the state Capitol for the occasion, joined by a group of advocates and supporters, mainly state lawmakers. The governor campaigned on legalization and has been a strong proponent during his 2 1/2 years in office.

The new law will take effect in phases, starting on July 1, when it will be legal for adults over 21 to have an ounce-and-a-half of marijuana, plus another five ounces in a locked container. Retail sales in Connecticut could begin as soon as the spring of 2022. Residents not in the medical marijuana program will be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants indoors, in their homes, starting in mid-2023.

Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, launched in 2012, continues, with about 55,000 registered patients. Under the new law they may grow up to six plants at home starting later this year.

The General Assembly adopted the bill last week in a special legislative session, with no Republican votes, although one GOP state Senator who was absent for the last-minute final vote, Sen. Kevin Witkos, voted for the same bill a week earlier. Much of the debate, some of it between Democrats, centered on the equity provisions involving who would get licenses to operate dispensaries.

Ultimately the Senate voted final approval for the bill on June 17, the 50th anniversary of President Richard Nixon declaring the war on drugs.

Julia Bergman