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Marijuana bill passes CT Senate; heads to governor to sign

The bill passed in the Senate the other day but with an added amendment that threatened a veto from Gov. Lamont.

HARTFORD, Conn. — One step remains before Connecticut becomes the 19th state to legalize marijuana.

This morning, just before noon, the Senate passed the bill 16-11 with nine senators abstaining.

It now heads to Governor Ned Lamont's office for his signature. After the Senate passed the bill, Lamont said he will sign it. He said in a statement:

“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war. 

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. That’s why I introduced a bill and worked hard with our partners in the legislature and other stakeholders to create a comprehensive framework for a securely regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, social justice, and equity. It will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs.

The states surrounding us already, or soon will have legal adult-use markets. By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states. Connecticut residents will benefit from the portion of cannabis revenues that will be dedicated to prevention and recovery services. This measure is comprehensive, protects our children and the most vulnerable in our communities, and will be viewed as a national model for regulating the adult-use cannabis marketplace.

I look forward to signing the bill and moving beyond this terrible period of incarceration and injustice.”

On Wednesday night, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed the bill  76-61. 

The bill has faced several votes in the last few weeks. 

Initially passed in the State Senate, the bill stalled in the House when Republicans had threatened to filibuster until the end of the regular legislative session at midnight last week. 

The bill was then tabled until a special session was called, beginning Tuesday where it was voted on again in the Senate. It passed, however, Gov. Ned Lamont had threatened to veto the bill after a last-minute amendment was thrown in. The amendment said that anyone convicted of a low-level marijuana crime could jump to the front of the line to get a new license to grow and sell it. 

Lamont had said the amendment had equity issues whereas the original bill's language dictated priority entry into the industry to those in communities more impacted by the war on drugs. 

RELATED: Recreational pot bill back on track after lawmakers reconcile veto threat from Gov. Lamont

"If a rich suburban kid is selling pot outside a high school and he gets busted, all of sudden he’s at the front of the line to get a license that didn’t seem to make much sense to me?" said Lamont. He added, "I want to focus on communities and make sure those communities are the ones that get the resources they need to get everyone back up on their feet."

"I would suspect it if we had the vote the two times then we'll have vote number three," said Chief Deputy Majority Leader Gay Winfield, "Some say the third time is the charm."

Winfield said he thinks it's important public policy to legalize marijuana and has been leading the charge on passing the bill.

"Today, June 17th, has been 50 years to the day after Nixon instituted the war on drugs and that policy we had as a country and did not work to make us safer," explained Winfield, "Connecticut is taking us in the right direction and I've always supported that."

"This is a significant victory for Connecticut. This landmark legislation embraces a new source of revenue that will grow the economy, establishes substantial safety guards for the public, maintains a municipality's voice in deciding what kind of presence cannabis will have in their communities, helps curb the dangerous, unregulated market, and provides justice for those who have been harmed by this country’s failed war on drugs," said State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan (D-Bethel) after the bill passed last night. 

RELATED: State Senate passes recreational cannabis legislation, Gov. threatens to veto bill citing equity issues

For many Republicans, marijuana remains a non-starter. Republicans have concerns about societal ills like addiction, the effect of THC on the developing brain, and public safety implications.

"I think that we will regret this decision in the years to come. I think it's similar to what we're seeing in Colorado where they're trying to put that genie back in the bottle, I think Connecticut will go in that same direction," said House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford). 

The Senate's legislative session is expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. 

The bill itself looks to legalize marijuana by July 1st for Connecticut residents 21 years or older with retail sales beginning next year. 

You can read the full bill here. 

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