Gov. Ned Lamont’s most recent legalization proposal has been met with scathing criticism on all sides. Yet, lawmakers refuse to give up on advancing marijuana-law reform in Connecticut this year. In fact, there’s even a sense of budding optimism that the legislature can put forward an adult-use bill that delivers badly needed revenue, as well as equity and long overdue reforms.
The governor, an outspoken proponent of retail pot, introduced his legalization bill with his budget proposal in February. While the bill allows for possession of up to an ounce and a half of Cannabis and establishes retail sales in Connecticut beginning in May 2022, it does not do much to address social equity or criminal justice reform.
In fact, critics believe the bill essentially turns the new adult-use industry over to established medical marijuana businesses, thanks to the head start given to those companies by delaying the implementation of an ultimately lacking equity program.
Many advocates have been left wondering how smaller, minority-owned businesses would be able to enter the industry under the proposed legislation.
Lamont’s administration has tried to frame the governor’s bill as a starting point, insisting that equity is not being ignored and that the legislation can be expanded. Still, critics point to restrictions on expunging past Cannabis criminal records and outlawing home cultivation as further evidence of the legislation’s shortcomings.
A group called Black and Brown United in Action even called Lamont’s bill “an insult to democracy” and “another knee on the neck of Black and Brown communities.”
Nonetheless, House Speaker Matthew Ritter remains optimistic that lawmakers can advance a strong tax and regulate bill. In addition to the governor’s proposal, legislators are also considering a separate legalization measure introduced by the House Labor and Public Employees Committee, which has received support from advocates.
Speaker Ritter is spearheading a negotiating process as groups in the House and Senate work though the bills in an effort to create a unified measure with enough support to move forward.
While the governor’s bill has been met with harsh criticism from advocates who support legalization, it has also dredged up prohibitionist rhetoric about increased traffic accidents and children overdosing.
The Connecticut State Medical Society, which vehemently opposes legalization, actually likened retail sales of legal Cannabis to Big Tobacco and Big Pharma. In written testimony, the group warned, “The rush towards legalization of recreational marijuana ignores how profit-driven corporations hooked generations of Americans on cigarettes and opioids, killing millions and straining public resources.”
It’s difficult to know where to begin unpacking that statement.