A key Connecticut committee approved a bill to legalize marijuana on Monday by a narrow vote of 21 to 19.
The legislation would allow adults 21 and older to possess, consume and purchase cannabis from a licensed retailer. Individuals could possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and up to five grams of concentrate. Home cultivation would be prohibited.
Low-level possession convictions could be expunged under the bill, and the fee for the petition would be waived.
The Judiciary Committee also voted on a separate bill to create a misdemeanor penalty for consumption of cannabis behind the wheel and another stipulating that employers don’t have to make special accommodations for workers who use marijuana.
A separate legalization bill under consideration in the Connecticut legislature was approved by the legislature’s General Law Committee last month. Both proposals recently received hearings in their respective committees.
The next stop for legalization legislation is the Finance Committee, The Hartford Courant reported, after which point it is expected that the various standalone cannabis bills will be combined into a single proposal that can be considered on the House and Senate floors.
At the Judiciary Committee meeting, several members raised concerns about the impact of legalization on youth consumption rates and impaired driving but, even in their opposition, many recognized that voting against the bill may be “delaying the inevitable.” Others noted that the neighboring state of Massachusetts has already legalized cannabis and that several others are expected to.
Sen. Alex Bergstein, (D-Greenwich), will vote against the marijuana bill. She says, “once you legalize, you normalize,” and worries for the consequences of legalization.
— Max Reiss (@MaxReiss) April 8, 2019
Legalization supporters generally support the legislation, though they’ve made several recommendations to improve it. For example, the Marijuana Policy Project wants the expungements provision to apply to all prior cannabis convictions and for the bill to allow home cultivation. Advocates have also pushed for stronger provisions providing equity in the cannabis industry to communities historically targeted by the war on drugs.
Possessing marijuana from an unauthorized source would also be prohibited under the bill, which is another policy advocates oppose.
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This story has been updated to include the Judiciary Committee’s final vote total.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.
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