Connecticut governor signs recreational marijuana into law

HARTFORD, Conn. — Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday signed a bill making Connecticut the 19th state to legalize recreational use of marijuana, which remains an illegal drug under federal law.

People age 21 and older will be allowed to possess and consume marijuana beginning on July 1 under the new law, which also lays the groundwork for a new cannabis industry in the state and attempts to address racial inequities stemming from the nation’s war on drugs.

The legislation received final approval from both chambers of the General Assembly last week during a special legislative session.

“This measure is comprehensive, protects our children and the most vulnerable in our communities, and will be viewed as a national model for regulating the adult-use cannabis marketplace,” Lamont, a Democrat, said in a statement last week.

The law allows individuals age 21 and older to possess or consume up to 1.5 ounces (42.5 grams) of “cannabis plant material” and up to 5 ounces (141.7 grams) in a locked container in a home or in the trunk or locked glove box in the person’s vehicle. Retail sales of recreational cannabis in Connecticut are not expected to begin until the summer of 2022, at the earliest.

Critics of the bill, including many Republicans, warned last week about the ramifications of Connecticut becoming the latest state to legalize a drug that remains illegal under federal law.

“I don’t think that because surrounding states are going down this path that we should,” said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, the top Senate Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

There will be different ways for people to apply to get involved in the state’s new adult cannabis market.

The expectation is that half of the licenses will be made available to social equity applicants, which include residents of communities that have been “disproportionately impacted” by drug-related crimes and high unemployment, according to Michelle H. Seagull, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection.