Louisiana’s Governor John Bel Edwards signs law to decriminalize cannabis

The debate over legalizing adult cannabis use finally had its day in the Connecticut House plenary, where reform advocates prevailed during a special Wednesday night session.

After the House Republicans refused to vote in the regular order of the legislature by threatening a filibuster on June 9 – the last day before the adjournment – the MPs returned to the lower chamber and deliberated for more than seven hours on June 16 Lang’s efforts won 76 to 62 votes for an amended version of Senate Act 1201.

The Senate, which passed the bill the previous day by 19-12 votes in favor, took the amended version of the bill for final approval on Thursday morning and agreed to push through the legislature. By the time Democratic Governor Ned Lamont signs it, Connecticut will be the 19th state to legalize adult cannabis. And with some of the language of social justice being withdrawn in this latest version of the bill, Lamont’s signature seems more likely than it was in the days before.

“Connecticut is just the latest domino to fall as states begin lifting their failed marijuana ban and replacing it with a sensible system of legalization and regulation,” said Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in a statement.

“The momentum for legalization has never been as strong as it was in 2021, when four state lawmakers are already approving bills to ensure state law reflects the overwhelming will of its residents in just a few months,” he said. New York, Virginia, and New Mexico also passed adult use laws earlier this year.

The Connecticut measure will allow adults, beginning July 1, 2021, to own up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis flower or equivalent amount of concentrate in public and up to 5 ounces in their homes. Commercial sales could begin as early as May 2022.

The roughly 300-page bill was made for many years and includes several changes and modifications over that time, said Democratic MP Steve Stafstrom, co-chair of the Joint Judiciary Committee and co-sponsored an earlier version of the adult-use bill earlier in the ordinary legislative period.

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Democratic MP Steve Stafstrom deliberates in Connecticut on Wednesday on legalizing adult cannabis.

“The time for Connecticut has finally come,” said Stafstrom in his opening address on Wednesday. “Today we as this Chamber are taking the next step to recognize that the war on drugs has failed us and that the criminalization of cannabis was the wrong course of action for our state and our nation.”

Legalization in Connecticut is heavily regulated, he said. The bill limits possession, purchase quantities, and dosage; restricts packaging and advertising; prohibits smoking and vaping in most public places; enables local communities to determine appropriate zoning; Strengthen enforcement and intervention in the event of driving disabilities; provides protection to employers; and increases funding for drug prevention, said Stafstrom.

The law also establishes a council to deal with social justice issues, although this has become a point of contention within the legislature. The Senate passed an amendment Tuesday that would have expanded social justice entitlements for prospective entrepreneurs – but this drew the ire of Lamont, who vowed to veto the law if that language were not addressed in the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives acted accordingly and rejected the Senate amendment by 125-0 votes.

The Senate’s rejected amendment would have given individuals with previous drug arrests or convictions a better chance of entering the state-legal cannabis industry by obtaining social justice licenses provided by law.

Republican Rep. Craig Fishbein, a senior judicial committee member, said he was confused by the House proponents’ decision to repeal this provision, which the Senate approved 26-4 the previous day.

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Republican MP Craig Fishbein deliberates in Connecticut on Wednesday on legalizing adult cannabis.

“I’m a bit confused because throughout the committee hearings [in] We have heard the discussions about it from people previously convicted of drug crimes in order to get involved in this market and they have been given assurances that they would take part, ”he said. “What happened in the Senate overwhelmingly approved the change.”

Rather than jeopardizing the entire social justice language bill that Lamont disagreed with, House members passed their own amendment that reduced the Senate’s omnibus provision to just one point: banning elected officials from participating in the cannabis industry in the draft law for two years after leaving the General Assembly. This change was accepted at 128-0.

As the discussion of the underlying bill continued, Fishbein was the main antagonist, raising concerns about the legislation. The first conflict he mentioned was the oath he allegedly took to comply with the U.S. Constitution, which stated that the Supremacy Clause in Article VI states that federal law takes precedence over state law.

Other Republicans and some Democrats have raised concerns similar to those raised by lawmakers in other states who recently voted against adult legalization in their parliaments. Public safety and the protection of minors were the two most important that Republican MP Tom O’Dea mentioned.

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Republican MP Tom O’Dea deliberates in Connecticut on Wednesday on legalizing adult cannabis.

“This is the most important vote I’ll take in my nine years here and I’m not saying that lightly,” he said. “Notice my words: people will die if we pass this law because of this law. Because recreational marijuana is being sold in Connecticut, more people will die. “

O’Dea offered a change to raise the legal age for adult cannabis from 21 to 25 years. He said he believed the commercialization of cannabis would harm the state’s youth. The amendment was rejected.

Stafstrom has two young children of his own and said he agreed that he did not want cannabis in the hands of young people.

“But I think with this bill we are actually creating a regulated marketplace,” said Stafstrom. “We are introducing safeguards around container sizes and dosage limits, as well as additional funds for prevention and the like, which are necessary in many ways since cannabis is legal at our borders, whether we like it or not.”

In the north, Massachusetts legalized cannabis through a 2016 election. And in the west, the New York legislature legalized cannabis earlier this year.

The war on drugs has abandoned Connecticut’s youth, abandoned its cities and had diverse effects, Stafstrom said. That is why the bill is titled “A Law Regulating Responsible and Equitable Regulation of Adult Cannabis Use,” he said.

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Democratic MP Juan Candelaria deliberates in Connecticut on Wednesday on legalizing adult cannabis.

Later in the debate, Democratic MP Juan Candelaria provided an example of how an unregulated cannabis market affected his family.

“I had a niece who died because she smoked marijuana and had PCP (phencyclidine) added to it,” he said. “The reason I advocated cannabis for adults is the same reason – to protect the children. I am a father. I have children. And I don’t want my kids to go this way.

“With this bill, we are trying to ensure that these children do not have access.”

Democratic MP Jason Rojas, who as Majority Leader in the House of Representatives assisted negotiations between the governor’s office and the legislature to agree on the final version of the bill, said the time had come after a long and complicated road in to go another direction.

“It started with a federal marijuana ban in 1937,” he said. “It was complicated by a 1971 war on drugs that took a tough approach to crime – an approach that has influenced the lives of millions of Americans whose involvement in the use of a substance should have been treated as a public health issue.” rather than a criminal matter. “

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