Connecticut Considers Legalization: Bills, Buds, and Big Bucks

Connecticut lawmakers are facing an intriguing dilemma – they must either reform their marijuana law and legalize recreational use, or sit back and watch as neighboring states that passed adult-use laws reap the fiscal benefits.

Massachusetts voters legalized marijuana in November 2016, and are scheduled to implement their adult use marijuana program on July 1. And that’s a problem for Connecticut’s elected officials and their cash-strapped coffers.

After constituents in Massachusetts and Maine – as well as the Vermont legislature – cast their vote for legalization, Connecticut’s elected officials felt compelled to once again address legalizing adult use marijuana. After all, it takes less time to drive from Hartford, CT to Massachusetts and back than it does to get from Orange County to LA during rush hour.

Senate Bill 487 has been referred to the Joint Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a public hearing on March 19. In addition to addressing adult-use legalization, SB 487 would legalize the production and regulation of industrial hemp.

SB 487 Summary

To legalize, tax and regulate the retail sale, personal growth and recreational use of marijuana by individuals twenty-one years of age or older and to allow for and regulate the production of hemp as an agricultural product.

Separately, House Bill 5458, another bill to legalize, tax, and regulate the retail sale of marijuana – was heard by Connecticut’s General Law Committee on Thursday.

A public event, the committee hearing allowed Connecticut’s elected officials to express their skepticism/reservations over adult-use legalization and discuss the impact of a recreational sector on the state’s blossoming medical marijuana program.

While a 2017 poll performed by Sacred Heart University showed that 71 percent of Connecticut residents support adult use legalization – the Marijuana Policy Project forecasts legalization could generate roughly $166 million annually for the state.

A medical marijuana state, Connecticut currently has 24,391 patients, 9 dispensaries, and 4 licensed cultivators.

Note: Connecticut is one of the few states (if not the only one) that makes patients choose a primary dispensary. These restrictive rules stifled competition in the state and have inadvertently driven up prices. Fingers crossed, many believe recreational legalization would ultimately change this dynamic and keep Connecticut’s patients from utilizing the black market due to inflated prices.

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