Connecticut legalizes recreational marijuana in 2021. It has now joined 19 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing the sale and cultivation of marijuana. It’s also the fourth state to legalize this year alone, following Virginia and New Mexico. After years of debate, Connecticut lawmakers gave the final approval last week. The bill will allow for Connecticut residents to enjoy marijuana. But what are the specifics you need to know about this particular bill?
New Law and Penalties
The bill, SB 1201, was introduced by House Speaker Matt Ritter and Senate President Martin Looney. The bill allows adults 21 and older to be able to possess cannabis without penalty beginning on July 1, 2021.
After this date, you can possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis flower legally. In this case, “possess” refers to physically possessing cannabis. Additionally, it will also be legal to have up to 5 ounces of cannabis flower stored in a locked container at home. It will also be legal to have up to 5 ounces of flower in your vehicle’s locked glove box. Similarly, it will be legal to hold cannabis stored in the trunk of the car.
Smoking marijuana is generally not allowed in places where cigarette smoking is already prohibited. It’s safe to assume this will be the same over in Connecticut. Places like these include restaurants, health care facilities, state or municipal buildings, and most workplaces.
Additionally, the use of any cannabis in state parks will become prohibited, with a $250 fine for offenders. Hotels will also prohibit guests from smoking marijuana. On the other hand, hotels can not ban possession and use of other forms of the drug in nonpublic areas. Separately, marijuana use would be illegal in motor vehicles by both drivers and passengers.
Minors under 18 caught for simple cannabis possession will not result in an arrest. Instead, the first offense will carry a written warning and a possible referral to youth services. The third or subsequent offense, or possession of more than 5 ounces of marijuana, would send the individual to juvenile court.
People in charge of households or private properties who allow minors to possess cannabis there could also face a Class A misdemeanor.
The legislation, which spans over 300 pages, sets up the proper framework for a recreational marijuana market. The bill states that cannabis retail stores will be set to open until 2022. So technically, residents cannot legally buy any cannabis until then.
When cannabis retailers do open up, they cannot sell more than 1 ounce per day to a single customer. Those who are registered medical patients can purchase up to 5 ounces per day.
Additionally, cannabis-related advertising can not target people under 21. Businesses that allow minors on their premises will face penalization. Products designed to appeal to children will be forbidden. Furthermore, licenses cannot be sold to minors. Licensees who sell to minors will be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. This would be punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine.
There’s an intense interest in jumping into the cannabis market. Because of this, the state will rely on a lottery method to distribute licenses. Fees to enter the lottery range from $250 for food and beverage manufacturer or delivery license, to $1,000 for a cultivator license. If an applicant wins in the lottery, then they would be responsible for additional licensing fees.
Half of the licenses will be reserved for “social equity applicants” that come from economically disadvantaged areas that have been most harmed by the war on drugs. These applicants would pay reduced licensing fees.
Growing your own
Since you cannot legally purchase cannabis until 2022, the best way to get your hands on some cannabis flower is by growing your own. Again, Connecticut adult residents can begin growing their own marijuana plants starting on July 1.
There will be a limit placed on how many plants anyone 21 and older can grow. Home growing will have a limit of 3 mature plants and 3 immature plants, for a total of six plants. Households can grow no more than 12 cannabis plants at any given time.
What happens to people with prior convictions depends on the specific charge and the date of conviction. Most criminal convictions for possession of less than four ounces of cannabis will automatically be expunge beginning in 2023. Prior convictions of possession of marijuana paraphernalia or the sale of small amounts of cannabis can petition. Those people can begin to petition beginning July 1, 2022.
Additionally, small-time cannabis convictions won’t prevent someone from earning a cannabis license.