GOP threatens to filibuster cannabis bill before Wednesday voting deadline
Supporters plan to hold a final vote Wednesday on legalizing recreational marijuana in Connecticut, in spite of a Republican threat to wind down the clock with a filibuster.
State lawmakers must pass the bill before a midnight deadline that night.
Early Tuesday morning, the state Senate approved it by a razor-thin 19-17 margin. On Wednesday, it’s the House’s turn to vote – but they only have until midnight to make it happen, when the regular legislative session ends.
And now, Republicans are threatening an all-day filibuster.
"I am not going to ask my members to have a bill that was drafted in secret, thrown on our plates on a Saturday night before the end of session, to tell them to stand down,” says state Rep. Vin Candelora, the House minority leader.
Candelora says the marijuana bill needs a “reset” after one provision gave preferential treatment to a grower connected to an influential Democratic senator. That section was removed from the legislation before the Senate passed it.
But ultimately, the GOP can't stop a marijuana vote.
"It's going to get a vote in the month of June,” says House Speaker Matt Ritter.
He says he will just call a special session and re-introduce the bill if time runs out.
The cannabis bill is massive, almost 300 pages. On July 1, marijuana would be fully legal for anyone 21 and over. Retail sales could begin in May 2022.
Social equity applicants from areas targeted by cannabis prohibition would get half the retail licenses, pay half the fees to enter the market, and get help with loans and business training.
Residents would also be able to grow their own plants the following year, with medical marijuana patients gaining the right this October.
Supporters say they have enough votes. But Republicans aren't so sure the votes are there.
"The vote last night, 19 to 17. I think that was six Democrats who voted along with Republicans to try to defeat the bill,” says Rep. Candelora.
Polls show two-thirds of the public supports legalizing cannabis, making efforts to block it politically risky.