The Connecticut state Senate on Thursday gave final legislative approval to a wide-ranging bill that legalizes the adult use of cannabis, sending the legislation to Gov. Ned Lamont, who said he will sign it into law. Following are highlights of the proposal.
Beginning July 1, the bill allows individuals age 21 and older to possess or consume up to 1.5 ounces of “cannabis plant material” and up to five ounces in a locked container in a home or in the trunk or locked glove box in the person’s vehicle.
Beginning July 1, police are prohibited from arresting anyone under age 18 for possession of marijuana. Instead, those found with less than five ounces of cannabis plant material or an equivalent amount of a cannabis product, face a written warning for a first offense and a possible referral to a youth services bureau. For a second offense, there’s a mandatory referral to a youth services bureau or an alternate agency. Subsequent offenses will be adjudicated as a delinquent in juvenile court. Offenders will also face a series of fines, depending on the offense.
The bill creates a new 15-member Social Equity Council that will ultimately provide the governor and state lawmakers with recommendations for making sure communities and individuals that were disproportionately harmed by the prohibition of marijuana are able to benefit and participate fully in the new legal system, including expedited and priority licensing.
The state Department of Consumer Protection, which needs to draft regulations for the new industry, must reserve half of the maximum number of applications for marijuana industry licenses for “social equity applicants.” A third-party will conduct a lottery to choose the applications for the agency to review.
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Beginning Oct. 1, qualifying medical marijuana patients who are at least 18 will be allowed to securely grow up to three mature and three immature cannabis plants in their homes.
Beginning July 1, 2023, all adults 21 and older will be allowed to do the same. A household will be capped at 12 plants.
The bill prohibits smoking, inhaling, or ingesting marijuana while driving or riding in a motor vehicle. It also bars police from using the odor of cannabis or burnt cannabis as basis for a stop or a search of a vehicle.
Beginning July 1, 2022, individuals can petition to have their prior convictions for possession of drugs, drug paraphernalia and the sale and manufacture of four or fewer ounces of marijuana.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, there will be automatic erasures of convictions, from Jan. 1, 2000 through Sept. 15, 2015, for possession of less than four ounces of cannabis.
Cannabis-related advertising designed to appeal to individuals under 21, such as cartoon characters, is prohibited under the bill. Cannabis businesses are also barred from sponsoring charitable events, concerts, sports and cultural events unless there’s evidence that not more than 10% of the audience is expected to be under age 21.
Cities and towns must hold a referendum on whether marijuana sales should be allowed in the community. At least 10% of the voters must petition for the referendum.
Source: Connecticut Office of Legislative Research