First vote on legal marijuana goes into overnight hours
It could a long night at the state Capitol where the Connecticut legislature is finally set to vote on a plan to make recreational marijuana legal in Connecticut.
The state Senate began its debate just after 9 p.m. Monday and it's expected to go well into the early morning hours of Tuesday before a vote is called.
If it passes there, the Connecticut House of Representatives plans to call the bill on Wednesday – just hours before a midnight deadline to pass new laws.
But lawmakers also have to vote on a new state budget and a controversial tax on trucks – all in the next two days.
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"Even if that vote comes at 11:45 at night, whatever time it comes, I hope we'll get a vote,” House Speaker Matt Ritter says.
The plan for legalized recreational marijuana is a massive 300-page bill. If passed, on July 1, recreational cannabis would be fully legal for anyone 21 and over. Next May, retail sales would start.
Licenses would be distributed by lottery with "social equity" applicants from distressed neighborhoods getting priority.
Also, Connecticut residents would be allowed to grow up to six plants per person starting in July 2023. Medical marijuana patients could start this October.
"Better for us to do that then have the underground market exploit the system,” Gov. Lamont said of the bill. “I think we're getting there."
Cities and towns could ban marijuana sales, either through zoning or a public referendum.
The bill also includes help for “social equity” applicants to get into the cannabis business, including mentorship programs, college training programs, and help finding investors. Those with minor marijuana convictions could also get them erased.
But before legal weed can get final approval, lawmakers have to pass the state budget. That effort may be easier this year since it includes no tax increases, so some Republicans are on board.
"Many improvements were made on this. I will be supporting this,” said state Sen. Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield).
If time runs out on the legal marijuana debate Wednesday night, the House speaker could call lawmakers back for a special session. Republican leaders say they are OK with that.