Connecticut's governor on Tuesday signed a bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, making his state the 19th to do so. The bill also erases certain marijuana-related convictions and reserves business licenses for people in communities impacted by the war on drugs.
"For decades, the war on cannabis caused injustices and created disparities while doing little to protect public health and safety," Governor Ned Lamont said in a statement. "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."
Beginning July 1, people who are 21 years old and older can legally possess up to 1.5 ounces and up to 5 ounces stored at home or locked in their car. Retail sales are expected to begin by the end of 2022, the governor's office said.
With the bill's signing, the state will create a special fund where revenue from marijuana sales will be used to support small businesses, invest in community projects and fund education programs around the state, Lamont said.
"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," Lamont said.
The new law erases some marijuana-related convictions between January 1, 2000, and October 1, 2015. The governor's office said half of all initial business licenses will be reserved for "social equity candidates" in an effort to start the "necessary work of repairing the damage caused by decades of failed cannabis criminalization policies."
Under the new law, selling or providing cannabis to people under 21 is a misdemeanor. The law also bans residents from smoking marijuana on state properties such as state parks, state beaches and state waters.
Steven Hawkins, executive director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that advocated for the bill, applauded the governor and state lawmakers for getting the bill "over the finish line."
"Connecticut has recognized that cannabis legalization is a civil rights issue and crafted a legalization law that aims to redress the unequal enforcement of cannabis laws and the harm caused by marijuana prohibition to Black and Brown communities, young people, and other marginalized groups," Hawkins said in a statement.