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Connecticut Governor Threatens Cannabis Legalization Veto

But Gov. Ned Lamont predicts that within a week, he’ll sign a version closer to the original bill into law

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Gov. Ned Lamont has threatened to veto a marijuana legalization bill that passed the state Senate on Tuesday night. But following an amendment that he believed undermined equity, Lamont said Wednesday he expected the impasse would be broken. The governor predicts that a final vote on cannabis should come within a week, reports The Hartford Courant.

At issue is a provision that Lamont says would open the door to “tens of thousands” of previously ineligible people. Those folks would be getting an bigger opportunity to enter the almost certainly lucrative market in Connecticut.

The problem is who, exactly, gets priority for licenses to cultivate and sell Cannabis. The Connecticut Senate approved the measure by a 19-12 vote. It would make people with previous marijuana convictions eligible for expedited licenses. This is in addition to those in underserved communities who were eligible under the original legislation.

Lamont’s chief of staff: ‘Opens the Floodgates’

The amended bill doesn’t meet equity goals laid our during negotiations, according to Lamont’s chief of staff, Paul Mounds.

“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.

Lamont said on Wednesday he would not sign the newly amended bill. The governor is concerned that it expands the criteria for expedited licenses too broadly. He believes it therefore undermines the stated goals of the original legislation.

“Late last night … an amendment came in that sort of changed the terms of equity in a way that I think a lot of people find uncomfortable,” Lamont said. “I think we had a deal, we had an agreed-upon process, really good emphasis upon equity, really good emphasis upon … our most distressed communities.”

Under the amendment, the governor said, “if a rich suburban kid is selling pot outside of a high school and he gets busted all of the sudden he’s at the front of the line to get a license, that didn’t seem to make much sense to me.”

It was not clear whether a new provision, setting an income limit, would address the governor’s concerns, reports Marijuana Moment. If House lawmakers approve changes, the measure would need to return to the Senate for a concurrence vote.

Lamont: ‘A Couple of Curveballs’

The Connecticut House of Representatives had scheduled a Wednesday vote on the Senate-approved measure. Instead, Lamont said he expects them to vote on the cannabis legalization bill that the Senate approved on June 8. The House did not act on that bill before the regular legislative session ended.

“There were a couple of curveballs that came in at the very last moment late last night,” Lamont said. “I think you’re going to see the House go back and pass what was the originally agreed upon bill, and I think we’re going to get something passed within a week.”

House Democrats postponed a morning news conference Wednesday. They met in caucus to discuss the next steps on the marijuana bill.

Democratic Sen. Gary Winfield, one of the bill’s advocates, said the amendment was trying to remedy the damage done by criminalization.

“What we were doing was trying to address the concerns of some people who felt like people who had records, particularly on cannabis … would be able to participate under the system,” Winfield said. “I think that the initial change we made definitely allowed this to go too far, and so we made an attempt to bring it back along the lines of some of the concerns of the governor … In doing that, clearly the governor feels as though we missed the mark.”

Activist: ‘He’s Right to Threaten a Veto’

Some of the strongest proponents of Cannabis legalization agree, at least in principle, with the governor’s assessment of the bill.

“I don’t say this lightly, but he’s right to threaten a veto,” tweeted legalization advocate Melvin Medina. “The House needs to amend the bill and send it back to the Senate to make sure we get this right.”

Medina is an organizer with the ACLU, but said he is speaking personally, not on behalf of the organization. 

“I’m am aware of the weight of what I’m saying,” he added. “What I’m not saying is Lamont is an equity champion. I’m saying the analysis for they gave for their opposition to the amendment is not wrong.”

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