HARTFORD, CT — Gov.-elect Ned Lamont told Connecticut Public Radio listeners earlier this month that legalizing marijuana is an idea whose time has come, and with Massachusetts ready to start sales Tuesday advocates hope Connecticut is next.
“Connecticut took a big step forward when it decriminalized marijuana possession seven years ago, but prohibition is still causing problems,” Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said. Until cannabis is legalized and regulated, illicit dealers will continue to dominate the market, and Connecticut will miss out on the job creation, tax revenue, and other economic benefits that will soon be experienced in neighboring Massachusetts.
Advocates would like to see Connecticut legalize recreational marijuana during the 2019 legislative session. Its not a far-fetched idea any longer. Connecticut came close last year. In 2018, six bills related to legalizing and regulating cannabis in Connecticut were introduced and four hearings were held on the issue. A bill that would begin planning for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Connecticut was sent to the House after narrowly passing the Appropriations Committee by a 27-24 vote.
Customers will be allowed to purchase up to one ounce of pot — the amount that state regulations allow individuals to possess in public at any given time — although given potentially large crowds Tuesday, the businesses may keep their per-person limits fluid.
A proponent of legalization, Rep. Josh Elliott, D-Hamden, said the House Democratic caucus was 17 votes shy of passage earlier this year. But that was before the recent election when Democrats held an 80-71 majority over Republicans. Following the last election, they currently hold a 92-59 majority over Republicans in the House. Elliott believes they will be able to get it over the finish line this year. He thinks it will happen if the Progressive Caucus gets behind it. However, support for the issue didnt always fall along party lines. Rep. Melissa Ziobron, a Republican from East Haddam, supported the measure. Her state Senate race is still undergoing a recount. Theres also skepticism among some lawmakers about the social costs of legalizing marijuana use for adults and the fact that no test exists for impairment. Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said its not a partisan issue. This is an issue that transcends party, Candelora said. He said they cant continue to turn a blind eye to the mounting driving fatalities and increase in homelessness in Colorado, which legalized it in 2014. He said its also hypocritical to introduce another form of addiction to children while debating the opioid crisis. The recent election will require a whole new set of calculations by both parties, but legalization seems to have some momentum. Between the new leadership in the governors office, progress made in 2018, and Massachusetts adult-use market opening, advocates are hopeful that 2019 could be the year Connecticut replaces marijuana prohibition with regulation. Connecticut voters have supported the measure. An October 2017 Sacred Heart University poll found that 71 percent of Connecticut residents strongly support or somewhat support legalizing and taxing marijuana, in the context of the states budget crisis. The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated last year that Connecticut could bring in $45.4 million to $104.6 million a year if it legalizes marijuana in the same way its been done in Massachusetts or Colorado. Connecticut is still facing a substantial two-year, $3.8 billion budget deficit even after revenue projections came in last week better than expected. Massachusetts will be the seventh state in the nation to establish a regulated cannabis market for adults. Retailers in Northampton and Leicester, Mass. are reportedly set to be the first to open. A total of nine states have enacted laws to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use. Lawmakers in Vermont and voters in D.C. adopted laws making marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, but not commercial production or sales. In Maine, they are expected to begin in fall 2019.
In Massachusetts, adults 21 and older will be able to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana from licensed marijuana retail stores, of which no more than five grams can be in concentrate form. It will remain illegal to consume marijuana in public. Marijuana products sold for adult use will be subject to a 6.25 percent state sales tax and a 10.75 percent state excise tax, and municipal officials have the option of levying additional local taxes of up to 3 percent. A study released in June by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health estimated adult marijuana sales would generate more than $200 million for the state and up to $3 million for local governments in the first two years alone.
Video: Leicester Pot Shop Prepared For Thousands On First Day Of Recreational Marijuana Sales In Mass.
Connecticut already has a medical marijuana program, which includes four growers and nine dispensaries.
Video: NETA News Conference
There are 31 conditions that have been approved for adults and eight for patients under 18 that can be treated with medical marijuana.
There are currently 29,543 patients in Connecticuts medical marijuana program and 1,000 certifying physicians, according to the Department of Consumer Protection, which regulates the program.
The First Two Legal Marijuana Customers in Mass. Have Been Picked
Its unclear how a recreational market might impact Connecticuts medical marijuana market. Dispensary sales for medical marijuana this year in Connecticut are projected to reach $50 million-$75 million, up from an estimated $30 million-$35 million in 2017, according to the Marijuana Business Factbook 2018. The cannabis industry is growing. The University of Connecticut will offer a class starting in January titled: Horticulture of Cannabis: From Seed to Harvest. It will be taught by Gerald Gerry Berkowitz, a professor of plant science. Our students see career opportunities and want to gain experience. Businesses need highly trained scientists to support the growth of this industry, and they are seeking talented graduates to enter this workforce, Berkowitz told UConn Today. With this course, we can help both groups. Its a win-win.
The $40 billion industry is expected to support 414,000 jobs across the country by 2021, according to a joint report by Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics released in January 2018.
Narkewicz, who quickly noted he “flew a desk” in the Air Force and Air National Guard in the 1980s, sees the start of recreational pot sales somewhat differently. For the mayor, elected in 2011, it’s a chance to prove that the marijuana business can be, well, business as usual — little different from the brew pub ribbon-cutting he attended last week or the restaurant opening he’ll attend next week.
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The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission said Friday the agency had granted the final approvals for NETA here and Cultivate Holdings LLC in the Worcester County town of Leicester to open the states first recreational marijuana shops, both on Tuesday.
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Video: Recreational Marijuana Stores Set To Open In Mass.
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I get to make history, Mandile tells the Boston Globe, adding that he’s “pumped to break the stigma and the weird, scary aura people want to put around cannabis. A longtime advocate for legalization, Mandile has spoken publicly about using marijuana to get off of opiates he was prescribed after sustaining serious injuries overseas, and has made it his mission to help other veterans do the same. Hoping to make his case to Gov. Charlie Baker himself, he once slept outside the State House.
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Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz will be one of Massachusetts first recreational marijuana buyers
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Stephen Mandile, a 41-year-old Iraq veteran and Uxbridge resident, will be first in line at Cultivate, a dispensary in Leicester. Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, an Air Force veteran, will make the inaugural transaction at New England Treatment Access in his city.
LEICESTER, Mass. (WHDH/AP) — The first two recreational marijuana stores in Massachusetts will be opening at the same exact time this week.
A spokeswoman for Cultivate in Leicester said Saturday the store planned to move up its regular 10 a.m. start time to 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
New England Treatment Access in Northampton will also begin selling to recreational customers at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
“We’re stepping into a new age,” Director of Diversity Programs and Marketing Specialist Kim Napoli said. “We’re honored to be a part of it here at NETA.”
There is an intense demand – pot shop unsure how long supply will last
Both stores received final regulatory approval Friday from the state Cannabis Control Commission to open next week. They will be the first commercial marijuana stores to operate in the eastern U.S.
First legal pot stores in Massachusetts to open simultaneously
The openings will come more than two full years after Massachusetts voters authorized legal recreational marijuana. Retail sales were originally slated to begin on July 1 but regulatory approvals were delayed.
A spokesperson for the 2016 ballot initiative, James Borghesani, told 7News that despite these delays, this remains a historic moment for the Bay State.
“We can rightfully squawk about state delays and problematic local opposition, but the fact remains that were the first state east of the Mississippi to offer legal, tested cannabis to adult consumers in safe retail settings,” he said. “This is a historic distinction for Massachusetts.”