Connecticut became the 19th state to legalize recreational marijuana use Tuesday when Governor Ned Lamont signed a highly anticipated law aimed at eliminating racial inequalities resulting from the nation’s war on drugs.
“We had the chance to learn from others, and I think we got it right here in Connecticut,” said Lamont, referring to multi-year efforts to finally pass a legalization bill during a ceremony in the state capital.
“Maybe we weren’t the first, but I think we were the first to show that we can do it right,” he said.
People 21 and older will be allowed to own and use marijuana starting July 1 under the new law, which also lays the groundwork for a new cannabis industry in the state and seeks to address racial inequalities caused by the nationwide drug war.
Connecticut joins 18 other states in fully legalizing adult recreational marijuana and joins four other states – New Jersey, New York, Virginia, New Mexico – that legalized the drug this year, the Marijuana Policy Project reported . Only five states have banned the drug entirely, and federal law has made it illegal too.
The law was finally approved by both houses of the General Assembly in a special session of the legislature last week.
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“I think it will be the most comprehensive and best cannabis legalization law in the country,” said House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford. “History will tell us whether this is true or not, but I am confident that this is the best bill in the country right now and will move us in the direction of ensuring that we have a well-regulated adult cannabis marketplace, who want to take part in this type of activity. “
Connecticut is one of the few states whose law clears marijuana convictions under certain conditions (records are automatically cleared from January 1, 2000 through September 30, 2015).
The Marijuana Policy Project also notes that legislation provides for 50% of licenses for equity applicants, which include residents of communities “disproportionately affected” by drug-related crime and high unemployment. Also, up to 75% of sales are used for community equity efforts and reinvestments, the group said.
Montana, Michigan, New York, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia are the only others that automatically edict marijuana convictions. Arizona will begin deleting next month.
Marijuana crimes accounted for 545,000 arrests in the country in 2019, and those arrested are mostly black and Latin Americans, the Drug Policy Alliance reported.
Connecticut’s legislation met strong opposition from both Democrats and Republicans. But polls suggest support for marijuana legalization could be greater across the country.
American support for legalization is higher than ever in the last five decades, Gallup reported in a 2020 poll. When the polling organization first measured support for legalization in 1969, it was only 12% – by 2000 it was 34% and now double. According to a 2019 Quinnipac survey that was legalized in thirty-six states, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, around 90% support the approval of medical marijuana.
And with the public support, the states are shifting too.
Just hours after the Connecticut governor signed the bill, the Rhode Island Senate approved the legalization of recreational marijuana use for adults. The bill now goes to the house.
Contribution: The Associated Press.