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

The bill passed in special session by a 19-12 vote. The House of Representatives will now vote on the bill.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Lawmakers couldn’t get it done in the regular session and on Tuesday, they are expected to revote on whether to make cannabis legal for recreational use in Connecticut.

The Senate already voted last week to approve the marijuana bill by a slim 19-17 margin, but because the house didn’t take a vote on it before the regular session ended, the senate needs to revote. The bill has undergone a few tweaks since then, but it’s largely the same. 

The State Senate passed the bill regarding the legalization of cannabis in Connecticut again, this time by a final vote of 19-12. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for a vote.

"I voted for it before. I plan on voting for it again," said State Sen. Cathy Osten, a Democrat from Sprague. Senate Republicans stand against it. "I think our no's have become hardened since the last time we voted," said State Sen. Kevin Kelly, the minority leader.

Connecticut already has a thriving medical and therapeutic cannabis industry. Some worry they will be priced out of the opportunity to cultivate or open a dispensary. 

"If I was going to have anything changed. Nobody is going to have a million dollars in cash to pay for a license and I think that’s unfair," remarked Sen. Osten.

Steven Nardiello, the owner of Your CBD Store in Middletown, said he sees legal marijuana as a win for his business of using industrial hemp oil. CBD is a cousin of the marijuana plant. His shop has edibles, tinctures, topicals, and even hand sanitizers. 

"They are not necessarily looking for what they have at the dispensary because we have certain products you can’t get there," explained Nardiello.

Nardiello believes those people already getting pot on the black market wouldn’t mind paying a tax to know it’s a safe product. 

"Good things aren’t cheap and cheap things aren’t good for you as I always say. It’s better to get something that’s a safe product if you are interested in using it," said Nardiello. "At least you know it’s safe without any contaminates. Who knows what with the types of things people put in things?"

As for what the bill does. Possession of limited amounts would become legal on July 1st. Past criminal convictions would be erased. Home growing would kick in in 2023, and limits would be placed on marijuana marketing. 

This bill does keep the right for cities and towns to prohibit retail pot shops and marijuana would still be banned at the workplace and at state parks and hotels.

Paul Mounds, the chief of staff to Governor Ned Lamont released a statement later Tuesday evening saying Gov. Lamont will veto the bill if it does not address the equity issues.

“The amendment approved by the Connecticut State Senate to adult-use cannabis bill this afternoon, simply put, does not meet the goals laid out during negotiations when it comes to equity and ensuring the wrongs of the past are righted," said Mounds in a written statement.  "To the contrary, this proposal opens the floodgates for tens of thousands of previously ineligible applicants to enter the adult-use cannabis industry. This last-minute amendment creates equity in name only by allowing these individuals expedited opportunity to obtain access to the marketplace."

Mounds added,  "Governor Lamont has said from the beginning that this legislation must allow those most impacted by the war on drugs to have a fair shot in the process to enter into this new industry. This measure as amended fails to achieve the goals and the needs of our state when it comes to equity. Senate Bill 1201 now allows just about anyone with a history of cannabis crimes or a member of their family, regardless of financial means, who was once arrested on simple possession to be considered with the same weight as someone from a neighborhood who has seen many of their friends and loved ones face significant penalties and discrimination due to their past cannabis crimes. That is not equity, and Governor Lamont will veto this bill if it reaches his desk in its current form.”

   

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