Connecticut Governor Signs Cannabis Legalization Legislation

Adult-use cannabis is officially legal in Connecticut.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, June 22, Governor Ned Lamont signed Senate Bill 120, a measure to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis.

The Senate gave its final approval to the bill on Thursday, June 17, with a 16 to 11 vote.

The new law contains comprehensive reforms for criminal justice, public health, equity, and public safety.

A New Era for Connecticut

According to Governor Lamont, the law protects children and the most vulnerable people in the state and will serve as a “national model” for adult-use cannabis regulation.

By signing the new law, Governor Lamont says the state moves beyond a “terrible period of incarceration and injustice.”

Governor Lamont says that, for decades, the war on cannabis has caused injustices, created disparities, and done little to protect public health and safety.

“The law that I signed today begins to right some of those wrongs by creating a comprehensive framework for a regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, criminal justice, and equity,” says Governor Lamont. “It will help eliminate the dangerous, unregulated market and support a new and equitable sector of our economy that will create jobs. The states surrounding us already, or soon will, have legal adult-use markets.”

Governor Lamont says that the new law offers benefits for the people of Connecticut and keeps the state competitive.

“By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes,” says Governor Lamont. “We’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive.”

Cannabis Reforms

Beginning July 1, 2021, the new law permits adults over age 21 to have 1.5 ounces of cannabis on their person and keep up to 5 ounces in a locked container.

The tax structure established by SB 120 includes a 3 percent municipal sales tax and a 6.35 state sales tax.

SB 120 also implements a THC content-related tax which will be 2.75 cents-per-milligram for edibles and 0.625 cents-per-milligram for cannabis flowers.

According to the Governor’s Office, the resulting tax rate will be approximately the same as Massachusetts but about 4 percent lower than New York.

The new law “defelonizes” homegrown cannabis on July 1, 2021, making it an infraction.

Beginning July 1, 2023, adults may legally grow a small number of plants at home in a secure location.

Legal retail cannabis sales will not begin in Connecticut until the end of 2022.

Affecting Positive Change

SB 120 erases certain cannabis-related convictions from January 1, 2000, through October 1, 2015.

People with convictions outside of the designated period can petition to have their convictions erased as well.

Portions of retail sales revenue will go to communities most affected by the drug war by creating a Social Equity and Innovation Fund.

The Social Equity Council will provide business capital, technical assistance for start-ups, workforce education, and community investments.

SB 120 also designates portions of sales revenue for substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery services.

“This legislation directs significant new funding to prevention and recovery services,” says Governor Lamont. “Which will be used to help prevent cannabis use by minors and to promote safe, healthy use of cannabis by those of legal age.”

Rules and Regulations

The new law makes selling or providing cannabis to minors a Class A misdemeanor and using a fake ID to attempt to purchase cannabis a Class D misdemeanor.

The law also requires delivery services to use online ID and age verification.

Edible cannabis products will have a 5-milligram-per-serving limit, and all products must adhere to lab testing, packaging, and labeling guidelines.

Under the new law, patients in Connecticut’s medical cannabis program will be able to purchase their medicine from any dispensary rather than just the one they are assigned.

Producers licensed for medical cannabis may expand or convert their licenses for the adult-use market but must prioritize serving the medical program.

SB 120 permits employers to continue to enforce drug-free workplaces, allowing them to take disciplinary action against employees who are impaired at work.

Employers in industries like manufacturing and healthcare are deemed exempt from the employment provisions of the law.

Unless a nonexempt employer has adopted drug-free workplace policies, they may not prohibit cannabis use outside of work or take action against a current or potential employee for a THC-positive drug test.

SB 120 prohibits cannabis use at state parks, beaches, and on state waters.