Lamont's marijuana plan clears hurdle in committee vote, but more changes likely
Gov. Ned Lamont's plan to legalize marijuana advanced Tuesday in a tight Judiciary Committee vote, 22-16, but only after some big changes and pushback from his own party.
The governor's plan is getting hit from both sides. Republicans say it goes too far and some Democrats say it doesn't go far enough.
Gov. Lamont's plan would legalize sales by next summer, but critics say it’s too limited. A new version allows home growing of up to six plants, but only for medical marijuana patients. Also, to protect small businesses, only "equity applicants" would be able to sell pot until 2024.
That includes those convicted of marijuana charges in the past. Their records could also be wiped clean.
"So somebody got arrested for breaking the law. We're going to say, 'You know what? What we're going to do is, we know you violated the law, but we're going to reward you,'" said state Sen. Dan Champagne (R-Vernon).
Backers say the bill is likely to undergo even more changes before the full General Assembly votes on it.
"I stand firmly in support of the effort to end prohibition of cannabis to right some of those historical wrongs," said state Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D- Bridgeport).
New York just legalized marijuana. It's already legal in Massachusetts. Many say that puts Connecticut on the clock.
"Right now, too many Connecticut residents, too many of our constituents purchase cannabis on an illicit and on an illegal market. And when they do so, they're consuming an unregulated substance," says state Sen. Will Haskell (D-Westport).
Tuesday’s vote was just the first of many hurdles for pot legalization. The bill heads to the Finance Committee next for a vote on April 22.
Under the revised proposal, cannabis workers could join unions — something critics pushed hard for. Union leaders say they’re happy the plan advanced, but it’s still needs work:
“We applaud the Judiciary Committee for recognizing that the best way to create good jobs in this new industry is to make labor peace agreements a condition of licensure,” said Connecticut AFL-CIO president Sal Luciano. “And we urge the legislature to add language to the final bill that would require the construction or renovation of cultivation and rental facilities to include prevailing wage standards and project labor agreements. The labor movement wants all the jobs in this industry – from construction and renovation to cannabis processing and retail – to be good jobs in our state. Connecticut cannot afford another low-wage industry.”
Also issuing a statement was the Connecticut State Medical Society, saying they oppose pot legalization:
“Physicians base our opinions on science, data from peer-reviewed writings, observation and patient interaction, which is why we believe Connecticut should not sacrifice the health and well-being of our youth for the unproven promise of increased revenues brought about by legalization of recreational marijuana,” said CSMS president Dr. Gregory Shangold.