On Thursday the Vermont state Senate passed a bill legalizing recreational cannabis, which is now expected to pass the state House and be signed into law by the Governor, making Vermont the ninth state to have legal recreational marijuana. The bill, which would allow adults 21 and older to buy up to an ounce of pot, passed on a vote of 35 to 1.
Last week, the Arizona House of Representatives approved a bill to legalize recreational cannabis for adults 21 and over, and to allow for home cultivation. This week, the Arizona Senate followed suit, passing HB 2283 and SB 1062. This vote marks the first time the state has passed a piece of legislation that allows adults to legally possess recreational cannabis, and the first time the state has passed a bill allowing adults 21 and over to cultivate. This is a watershed moment in the long fight to legalize cannabis for adults in Arizona, and will help continue to push the issue forward. Now that the bill is being sent to Governor Doug Ducey, we hope that he will sign it into law.
The Senate passed a bill to legalize cannabis shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. The bill passed with a 19-17 majority, with six Democrats voting against and one Republican voting in favor. Senators Heather Somers, R-Groton, and Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, both voted and opposed the measure. The House of Representatives is expected to debate the bill in the coming days, but the time to pass it through the legislature has been shortened as the legislative session ends at midnight Wednesday. House leaders acknowledge that the timetable is tight, especially since the House must deal with the state budget on Tuesday, but they remain confident that the bill will become law. House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said he thinks the votes to pass the bill are there. It’s essentially the same as what was presented to the Judiciary Committee about two months ago, but we made adjustments, he said Monday. The Democratic caucus in the House is determined to vote for the cannabis bill. House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said some Democrats will likely vote against legalizing recreational cannabis, but also noted that some Republicans might vote for it. House leadership said the cannabis bill will be put to a vote Wednesday. Disagreements between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party led to the postponement of consideration of the bill in the legislature. The text of the new version of the law was released Saturday night. Ritter called Rojas’ negotiations with the various factions of his party and the governor’s office perhaps one of the longest, most painful and difficult negotiations ever undertaken by a legislative leader. Activists and progressive Democrats alike were concerned about the definition of challenger in Lamont’s bill. Proponents of cannabis for recreational purposes say the difference between Lamont’s bill, which passed out of two committees, and House Bill 6377, a bill by Democrat Robin Porter of New Haven, seemed minuscule, but was in fact huge. The equity program is designed for those who have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, to make it easier to start a marijuana business and make it more self-sustaining, rather than competing with corporations. At one point, the Lamont bill provided that a private company could qualify as an equity investor by hiring qualified individuals as equity investors. The bill being voted on this week removes the definition of a socially just cannabis business license applicant and instead includes people who live in certain geographic areas most affected by the war on drugs as cannabis business license applicants. Under the bill, half of Connecticut’s recreational cannabis licenses would be awarded to equal applicants. Cannabis activists say the measure still doesn’t go far enough, because it doesn’t consider people or their family members arrested for marijuana offenses to be equal-opportunity candidates, but it comes close to what the Progressive Caucus and the Black and Puerto Rican Caucuses are pushing for. The permits would be awarded under the lottery system that remains in the Lamont bill and which the more progressive proponents generally oppose. The Senate-passed bill includes more provisions for homegrown marijuana, another pillar of advocacy by cannabis activists. Starting in July 2023, home cultivation will be allowed for anyone 21 or older, with a limit of 12 plants per household. The tax on cannabis would be just over 9%, with a portion of the proceeds going to areas disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. Retail sales will begin in May 2022. The legislation states that municipalities can prohibit or restrict cannabis businesses in their jurisdiction. The bill also provides that the Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe may enter into agreements relating to cannabis. While the Mohegans were reluctant to get into the marijuana business, the Mashantuckets were more enthusiastic. On Monday, Rojas urged Republicans not to filibuster the bill with endless debates or amendments. Ritter said Republicans could be out by midnight on June 9. But if that happens, he threatens to call a special session on Thursday.
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