As of July 1, 2021, Connecticut is the 18th state to legalize adult-use cannabis, with a taxed and regulated market set to launch next year.
The enacted reform comes just weeks after congressional leaders reached an agreement with Gov. Ned Lamont on the specifics of the marijuana legalization bill, which was then hastily approved by lawmakers ahead of the legislative session’s deadline.
“The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety,” the governor said in a statement. “It will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs.”
It’s now legal in Connecticut for adults 21 and older to possess in public up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis flower, or its equivalent in concentrate, and up to five ounces at private residences. Once retail sales begin, THC concentrations of marijuana flower will be capped at 30 percent, while concentrates, other than vape cartridges, will be limited to 60 percent.
The new legislation facilitates automatic expungement of marijuana possession records of up to four ounces, while more serious cannabis-related convictions can be redressed by petitioning the courts to have the record sealed. Other social equity provisions include allocating half of cannabis sales tax revenues to 25 of Connecticut’s most deprived communities, based on income levels, unemployment and educational attainment, while half of cannabis business licenses will be set aside for social equity applicants from such communities.
Connecticut is the fifth state to legalize cannabis this year, and now there are only two New England states – Rhode Island and New Hampshire – that are yet to approve the reform. Rhode Island lawmakers, however, are working on a marijuana legalization bill, with the state Senate passing a proposal last month. With Massachusetts having legal cannabis sales since 2018 and New York looking to launch its own legal market in 2022, Gov. Lamont indicated marijuana legalization in Connecticut makes sense not just from a social equity perspective but also to ensure the state can keep up with its neighbors.
“The states surrounding us already, or soon will, have legal adult-use markets,” said Lamont. “By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale …we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states.”
An analysis on the impact of legalizing cannabis sales in Connecticut, courtesy of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis, projects the industry will generate between $622 and $669 million in tax revenues in the first five years of legal sales and create somewhere between 10,500 to 17,500 new jobs over the same period.