Connecticut Becomes the 19th State to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

On June 22, 2021, Governor Ned Lamont signed legislation that would make recreational marijuana legal in Connecticut as of July 1, 2021. With this landmark bill, Connecticut takes substantial steps towards reparations for those most affected by prohibition. New Hampshire and Rhode Island are now the only states in New England to criminalize recreational marijuana. With the passing of this bill, Connecticut becomes the 19th state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in the United States. Below, we break down what this critical piece of legislation entails. 

Connecticut’s Senate Bill 1201 

Connecticut’s Senate Bill 1201 (“SB-1201”) allows adults over 21 years of age to possess no more than 1.5 ounces of cannabis on their person and no more than 5 ounces elsewhere. According to the bill, the law prohibits underage possession of cannabis products. It also establishes several criminal offenses for those who enable the sale or distribution of marijuana to minors.

The sale, manufacture, and cultivation (aside from homegrown marijuana) now require a state license, though retail sales of recreational marijuana will not begin until late 2022. The products that contain delta-8-THC, delta-9-THC, and delta-10-THC are considered cannabis products under this law and are subject to regulation like all other cannabis products. Additionally, all existing producers and dispensaries that operate in the state’s medical marijuana program can expand or convert their licenses for adult recreational use. However, the medical program for which they initially enrolled must take priority in their business.

Under SB-1201, cannabis businesses will also be a new source of revenue for municipalities and the state of Connecticut. Businesses will be taxed a 3% municipal sales tax, and a 6.35% sales tax will be allocated to the state. Additionally, cannabis products will be taxed based on their THC content. For instance, edible cannabis products will be taxed 2.75 cents per milligram of THC, cannabis flower will be taxed 0.625 cents per milligram, and all other cannabis products will be taxed 0.9 cents per milligram. Governor Ned Lamont stated that this bill’s tax rate is 4% lower than New York’s and stands comparable to Massachusetts’s tax rates. New York and Massachusetts were respectively the 15th and 18th states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. 

Social Justice Initiatives of the Legislation

SB-1201 also advocates for social justice initiatives that favor communities and people negatively affected by previous prohibition laws. Upon signing this bill, Connecticut Governor Lamont stated: “This measure is comprehensive, protects our children and the most vulnerable in our communities, and will be viewed as a national model for regulating adult-use cannabis. By signing this into law today, we are helping our state move beyond this terrible period of incarceration and injustice.” 

SB-1201 establishes the creation of The Social Equity Council, a council responsible for launching programs that support social justice initiatives. The initiatives consist of programs to support both the economic and social mobilization of those “most affected by the so-called war on drugs.” The Social Equity Council will be responsible for backing social equity cannabis license applicants, ensuring that underrepresented groups make up at least half of all license applicants. The Council will also utilize the Social Equity and Innovation Fund resources to provide business capital, technical assistance for start-ups, workforce education, and community investments. This assistance is not limited to the cannabis market. 

To bring justice to affected communities, SB-1201 will erase certain marijuana-related convictions. Marijuana-related convictions that occurred in Connecticut between January 1, 2000, and October 1, 2015, will automatically be erased. Convictions that occurred outside of this period might still be eligible for this initiative, but a formal petition to qualify will have to be submitted. 

Cannabis lawyer Chelsie Spencer is committed to the marijuana community and is dedicated to providing legal services and support to a wide range of hemp, marijuana, and CBD businesses. Chelsie offers substantial expertise in various legal fields with several years of experience in hemp and marijuana law, transactional issues, commercial and intellectual property law, and copyrights and trademarks. Contact Ritter Spencer Cheng or call us at 214.295.5070 for more information.