A bill to legalize recreational marijuana cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday when the Justice Committee narrowly approved it.
“I’m a supporter of cannabis legalization,” said Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven).
Winfield said he supported both Governor Ned Lamont’s bill and another to legalize marijuana. The Judiciary Committee passed Lamont’s bill with just six votes. Three Democrats voted against the measure.
“From July 1, 2021 to January 1, 2024, only existing medical facilities and social justice applicants can open cannabis facilities,” said Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D-Bridgeport).
Stafstrom, co-chair of the committee, said lawmakers were focused on ensuring that individuals from communities affected by the war on drugs have an opportunity to get into the industry.
But not all legislators agreed with the approach.
“We know you’ve broken the law, but we’re going to reward you and deduct 50% of the fees,” said Senator Dan Champagne (R-Vernon).
Lawmakers also expressed concern that anyone under the age of 21 would get their hands on the drug.
“I just want to ask that we think about the children and how we work harder to prevent improved access for the children,” said Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-Ridgefield).
O’Dea said he might be fine if it was 25 and over, but he wasn’t comfortable at 21.
Other lawmakers said it was important to regulate this market.
“The advantage of legalization is regulation. We know that too many Connecticut residents right now, too many of our constituents, are buying cannabis in one illegal market and one illegal market, ”said Senator Will Haskell (D-Wilton).
Regulation guarantees that it is not spiked with deadly drugs like fentanyl.
The legislature also contradicted it for other reasons.
“This product is currently illegal. It’s a controlled substance under federal law, ”said Rep. Craig Fishbein (R-Wallingford).
The bill allows one person to own up to 6 ounces of cannabis, creates a cannabis control committee to oversee the industry, and allows medical patients to breed their own.
As in Massachusetts, Connecticut’s bill would set up a cannabis control committee to approve licenses and oversee the industry.
Steven Hoffman, Chair of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, is excited to see New York and possibly Connecticut join the market.
“I think all three states can be very successful in building a healthy large market that offers opportunities for people harmed by the previous marijuana ban,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said they still have many opportunities to grow the Massachusetts business. Last November, Massachusetts marijuana retailers had sales of over $ 1 billion in just under two years.
Lamont included cannabis sales in its two-year budget.
Lamont proposes a sales and use tax of 6.35% and a consumption tax of 9.5%. The proposal also gives local authorities the option to levy their own 3% excise tax.