State lawmakers review 2 plans to legalize recreational marijuana

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Two plans to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut were discussed in Hartford today.

Both plans on the table would allow anyone 21 or over to buy and possess recreational pot.

Among the elements on the table are the creation of a Cannabis Control Commission to set most of the rules, a possession limit of 1.5 ounces (equal to about 40 joints), a ban on marijuana in bars and restaurants, and letting towns opt-out of retail sales altogether.

One of the plans allows people with prior marijuana convictions under 1.5 ounces to apply for a record expungement.

There's also a possibility they could get first dibs at a store license, which is not a popular idea with everyone.

"I personally find it extremely difficult and frustrating that somebody who's been convicted of a crime is placed on a higher consideration for a permit than somebody who's been law-abiding their entire life," says state Sen. Kevin Witkos (R-Canton).

Drug treatment counselors are warning lawmakers of both plans.

"There are currently insufficient data that supports the safety of marijuana use recreationally," says Maureen Dinnan. "And there's increasing data regarding the risks that are associated with it."

Gov. Ned Lamont is in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Legal marijuana could mean anywhere from $70 million to 150 million a year in taxes. But today the state consumer protection commissioner said it would take at least two years to see retail sales here. 

"License applications would need to go out, people would then need time to apply," said Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull. "The Cannabis Control Commission would need an opportunity to evaluate those, award licenses."

Neither of these plans address how strong retail pot could be. Many lawmakers want a limit on THC content.

Legislative committees expect to vote on these plans in the next week.


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