Connecticut Archives - Green Market Report

StaffJune 22, 2021
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Governor Ned Lamont (D) signed legislation today, Senate Bill 1201, legalizing the adult use of marijuana and regulating its commercial production and sale. Under the law, which takes effect on July 1, adults ages 21 and older may legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis flowers or an equivalent amount of cannabis concentrates in public, and up to five ounces of marijuana in their private residence.

“We commend the Connecticut Legislature and governor for their commitment to getting this important, equity-centered legalization bill over the finish line,” said Steven Hawkins, executive director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Connecticut has recognized that cannabis legalization is a civil rights issue and crafted a legalization law that aims to redress the unequal enforcement of cannabis laws and the harm caused by marijuana prohibition to Black and Brown communities, young people, and other marginalized groups.”

NORML noted in a statement that those with past criminal records for activities involving up to four ounces of cannabis will have their convictions automatically expunged under the new law. Those with convictions for more serious offenses can petition the courts to take action.  The new law limits the discriminatory actions that employers, hospitals, and others may take against those who test positive for past cannabis exposure. The act also provides protections for parents and tenants who use cannabis in compliance with the law. It mandates that the odor of marijuana alone cannot be used as a basis for police to search an individual, and it prohibits jail time as a penalty for those under the age of 21 who are caught in possession of marijuana.

“State lawmakers are to be commended for enacting model legislation that will move Connecticut forward,” said NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano, a Connecticut native. “This legislation recognizes that the responsible use of marijuana by adults should not be a crime, and that those who carry the stigma of a criminal record for their past use of cannabis should receive relief. Regulating cannabis, rather than criminalizing it, has proven to be a superior public policy — which is why more and more states are rapidly moving in this direction.”

Connecticut Home Grow

Beginning in October of this year, state-registered medical cannabis patients will be permitted to home-cultivate up to three mature and three immature marijuana plants. Non-participants in the state’s medical cannabis program must wait until 2023 until they are legally permitted to home-cultivate marijuana for their own personal use without any penalties.

Marijuana flowers available at retail facilities will be capped at 30 percent THC, while concentrated products (except vape cartridges) will be capped at 60 percent THC. Retail sales of cannabis and cannabis products are not anticipated to begin until some time next year

“MPP is proud to have played a key part in this multi-year effort to reform Connecticut’s cannabis laws,” said DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We believe the legislation signed by Gov. Lamont is one of the most comprehensive cannabis bills on equity and criminal justice reform in the nation. This new policy will make a real difference in the lives of Connecticut’s citizens by mitigating decades of disproportionate impact, generating good-paying jobs and powering the state’s economic growth, and allowing adults to make their own decisions about cannabis consumption.”

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted adult-use legalization laws — with five doing so legislatively this year. Voters in South Dakota also passed a legalization law in November, but that measure is the subject of an ongoing legal challenge.


Debra BorchardtJune 18, 2021
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Connecticut’s legalization efforts looked all but certain to fail at the beginning of the week, but now it’s headed to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Sales could begin in May 2022. During the state’s normal legislative calendar, lawmakers passed a similar bill, but Republicans pushed back and it never made it to a vote. The session ended and the measure was moved to the special session. Although Republicans got the blame for the delay, several state Democrats had also expressed concerns. In the state’s recent special session, the Senate approved a full legalization bill by a vote of 19-12.

Governor Stands Firm

Governor Lamont, who had been supportive of legalizing adult-use sales, signaled his displeasure with the social equity language. “Gov. Ned Lamont is threatening to veto a bill legalizing and taxing marijuana because it does not go far enough in addressing the historical trauma of the war on drugs and ensuring equity in the state’s budding recreational marijuana industry.” Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff said the law, “does not meet the goals laid out during negotiations when it comes to equity and ensuring the wrongs of the past are righted. To the contrary, this proposal opens the floodgates for tens of thousands of previously ineligible applicants to enter the adult-use cannabis industry.”

That’s when an amendment was added that stated that those applicants must have an average household income of less than 300% of the state median over the three tax years immediately preceding the person’s application or was a resident of a disproportionately impacted area for no less than five of the 10 years immediately preceding their application. Other criteria include people who were incarcerated for the sale, possession or cultivation of cannabis or had a parent, spouse or child who was imprisoned for such an offense.

Advocacy Groups Celebrate

The Marijuana Policy Project played a leading role in the fight to reform Connecticut’s cannabis laws. “Connecticut is on the cusp of becoming the latest state to legalize cannabis. This year has shown us that state legislatures are capable of rising to the challenge to end cannabis prohibition. A supermajority of Americans have made it clear that they favor a system of legalization and regulation rather than the status quo. This victory will add to the momentum towards cannabis policy reform in other states and at the federal level,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. MPP noted that 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. 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.

NORML also highlighted that the law addresses those with past criminal records for activities involving up to four ounces of cannabis who will have their convictions automatically expunged. Those with convictions for more serious offenses can petition the courts for relief. Licensed retailers will be subject to both state and local regulations, and local municipalities may impose moratoriums on cannabis-related businesses. Marijuana flowers available at retail facilities will be capped at 30 percent THC, while concentrated products (except vape cartridges) will be capped at 60 percent THC. Retail purchases will be subject to the state’s sales tax. Designated public consumption facilities are permitted under the law in municipalities with 50,000 residents or more.

Connecticut is just the latest domino to fall as states begin to repeal their failed prohibition of marijuana and replace it with a sensible system of legalization and regulation. Never before has the momentum for legalization looked as strong as it does in 2021, with four state legislatures already approving bills to ensure state law reflects the overwhelming will of their state residents in just a few short months,” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s Executive Director. “Federal lawmakers need to stop dragging their feet and get the message: it is time to take swift action to end our federal prohibition and allow states to legalize marijuana as they see fit.”

Licensing

Cannabis legal firm Vincente Sederberg said that beginning in September, existing medical cannabis dispensaries can apply for “hybrid retailer” licenses to also serve adults 21 and older. They will be required to submit a conversion plan and pay a $1 million fee, which could be cut in half by creating an equity joint venture with a social equity applicant as the majority owner. Existing medical cultivators can also begin cultivating adult-use cannabis later this year by paying a fee of up to $3 million.

If the application period for a license type closes and DCP receives more than the maximum number of applications, a third-party lottery will be used. Applicants for new cannabis businesses will have to pay a small fee to enter, then a larger fee if they receive a license. Licensing fees for qualified social equity applicants will be 50% lower, and equity applicants will receive a 50% discount on renewal fees for the first three years. The law also creates $50 million in bonding for the cannabis business accelerator program, workforce training developed by the Social Equity Council, and start-up capital for equity applicants.

Connecticut established a thoughtful licensing scheme that is intended to create a diverse, accessible, and robust cannabis industry,” said Michelle Bodian, a Connecticut native and senior associate attorney in the New York office of national cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, whose firm has worked on social equity and small business policy matters and programs around the country. “Eight classes of licenses will lend to a wide array of opportunities and other benefits for Connecticut businesses, large and small,” Bodian said. “A regulated adult-use cannabis market will create a wave of new jobs and generate significant tax revenue for the state and local governments. It also bodes well for all the ancillary industries that will supply these cannabis businesses with products and services.”

Unions Have High Hopes

UFCW Local 371 President Ronald Petronella and UFCW Local 919 President Mark Espinosa released the following joint statement:

“Connecticut working families need an economy that puts them first. With this bill, Connecticut can create thousands of good-paying cannabis jobs that will strengthen our communities and help to speed our economic recovery as we emerge from the pandemic.

“States across the Northeast have already tapped into the economic promise of cannabis. Creating a strong cannabis market here in Connecticut with clear regulations that prioritize good wages and worker safety is essential to ensuring we build the foundation for long-term economic growth in the industry. As the unions for thousands of Connecticut frontline workers, we look forward to working to create thousands of good paying, family sustaining cannabis jobs here in Connecticut.”

 


Debra BorchardtJune 16, 2021
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The state of Connecticut keeps trying to pass the legalization of adult-use cannabis but seems to be thwarted each time. Marijuana Moment reported that in the state’s recent special session, the Senate approved a full legalization bill by a vote of 19-12. A week ago, during the state’s normal legislative calendar, lawmakers passed a similar bill, but Republicans pushed back. The session ended and the measure was moved to the special session. Although Republicans got the blame for the delay, several state Democrats have also expressed concerns. Governor Ned Lamont is mostly supportive of full legalization but has expressed problems with the social equity rules.

According to the Hartford Courant, “Gov. Ned Lamont is threatening to veto a bill legalizing and taxing marijuana because it does not go far enough in addressing the historical trauma of the war on drugs and ensuring equity in the state’s budding recreational marijuana industry.” Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff said the law, “does not meet the goals laid out during negotiations when it comes to equity and ensuring the wrongs of the past are righted. To the contrary, this proposal opens the floodgates for tens of thousands of previously ineligible applicants to enter the adult-use cannabis industry.”

Mounds said the measure “creates equity in name only by allowing these individuals expedited opportunity to obtain access to the marketplace.” For example, it could have opened the door for a person from a wealthy community who was once caught with a single joint to become an “equity applicant.” An amendment, however, was adopted in an attempt to address that concern by setting an income limit for those applicants.

The Courant reported that the amendment stated that those applicants must have an average household income of less than 300% of the state median over the three tax years immediately preceding the person’s application or was a resident of a disproportionately impacted area for no less than five of the 10 years immediately preceding their application. Other criteria include people who were incarcerated for the sale, possession or cultivation of cannabis or had a parent, spouse or child who was imprisoned for such an offense.

Sen. Gary Winfield (D) said, “The conversation about cannabis legalization also is a conversation about policing in certain communities, the way policing has happened. The governor has his role and we as a different branch of government have our role. We in the Senate have performed our role and the House has the opportunity tomorrow to perform theirs. I hope that the governor reconsiders but he has his role to fulfill and he’ll do that.’’

The state is coming under increasing pressure for full legalization as its neighboring states have moved headed. Massachusetts is already selling adult-use cannabis and New York is slated to begin sales in April 2022. The state legalized medical marijuana and as of 6/13/2021, there are 53,955 registered patients. There are 18 dispensaries and four producers. Medical marijuana is exempt from the state sales tax, and revenue officials do not track the sales. Massachusetts recorded $547 million in cannabis sales by November 2020 and topped a billion in sales in just two years.


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