Marijuana law in Connecticut remains a challenging and complicated area of law, mostly because so much misinformation exists out in the state. Below is a brief primer on the changes to marijuana law in Connecticut. In 2012, Connecticut enacted its medical marijuana program, which allowed patients and caregivers to obtain medical marijuana from specific registered dispensaries. In 2016, this medical marijuana bill program was expanded but remained more limited than other states.
Understanding the details
In early spring of 2019, Connecticut lawmakers attempted to legalize recreational marijuana to adults age 21 and above. Though a piece of legislation passed key legislative checkpoints, the bill eventually stopped at the negotiations phase in early May. Ultimately, even though Connecticut legislators expected to legalize recreational marijuana before the legislative session ended in early June, lawmakers were unable to reach a compromise. Proponents of recreational legalization argued that it would have an overall statewide positive impact.
In contrast, opponents cited the unknowns involved with legalization. Most of the unknowns stem from the fact that all predictions were unable to be supported in the future and are guesswork. Ultimately no vote occurred concerning the issue of legalization of recreational marijuana because both sides agreed that there was not enough support for the bill. The most likely outcome will be a state referendum, either in 2020 or 2021.
Committees regarding legalization
Three committees approved bills regarding the legalization of marijuana, including:
- General Law and finance
- Revenue and bonding
While all three of these three proposed bills passed committee votes, none proceeded to the House or the Senate to receive a vote. The reality seems to be that marijuana law in Connecticut will remain at the status quo. Even though the use of marijuana in Connecticut is decriminalized, full recreational marijuana use will likely not pass without external pressure.
If surrounding states such as New York or New Jersey passed legalization bills, then Connecticut might want to ramp up pressures within the state to capitalize on receiving taxation benefits. Much of the subsequent commentary identified a couple of factors for why the legalization efforts eventually failed, including competing information, a successful anti-lobbying campaign, and general complacency on the part of voters.
A Long-term process
Key supporters of the legalization initiative have begun to consider adding the issue to the ballot next year via a constitutional amendment, though such a proposal is incredibly labor-intensive. Amending the Connecticut constitution is complicated because legislators would first need to pass a resolution, which would allow the proposal to appear on the ballot. If three quarters of both the Connecticut House and Senate approve of the resolution, it would be placed in the next state election.
If passed by both legislative bodies, it might appear on the 2022 general election ballot. At that point, it would require Connecticut voters to approve of the constitutional amendment. Based on recent polling, it appears as though allowing voters to decide would eventually lead to legalization. Connecticut residents seemingly support legalizing recreational marijuana in addition to expunging low-level marijuana criminal offenses.
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NOTE: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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