Civil Rights Teams Demand Congress Cross Federal Marijuana Legalization Invoice This Month

Top Connecticut lawmakers announced Friday that they had finally reached agreement on a law to legalize marijuana, and are now handing out final language among members ahead of the upcoming votes.

After weeks of talks with Governor Ned Lamont’s (D) office, House Majority Leader Jason Rojas (D) said the negotiators now have a “pencil down” agreement. However, lawmakers need to act quickly if they hope to pass the law before the Wednesday session ends.

“Now we can actually go to the people and say that this is the end product,” said house spokesman Matt Ritter (D).

“We’re done negotiating and we’re taking in all of the wonderful ideas people wanted to contribute to this bill,” added Rojas.

But while the legislature has provided some details on the basic elements of the proposal, the text is still not publicly available.

Watch the House leaders discuss the marijuana legalization deal around 2:40 p.m. and 9:40 p.m. in the video below:

The main changes made to the legislation were to “step up our efforts to ensure that this new marketplace is really open to the broadest possible range of people who want to enter this marketplace, other than just large corporate or overcapitalized interests who dominate the market, “said Rojas.

Ritter emphasized that the bill must move into the Senate “quickly”, before Wednesday, in order to prevent opponents from killing the measure by running out of the clock.

When asked about prospects for bipartisan support, the majority leader said Republicans “live up to libertarian values, which I think some of them hold, yes, but we’ll see”.

“It’s almost a 300-page document – one of the most complicated pieces of legislation I’ve ever been involved in. We are opening up a completely new market, ”he said. “And certainly there has been a lot of interest from multiple parties within the legislature, within the administration, a lot of supporters out there.”

He added that lawmakers worked with the governor’s team until 2:30 a.m. on Friday morning to finalize the deal.

However, Rojas pushed for details on the proposal, which was reported by CT Post earlier this week, and declined to confirm the article’s accuracy, despite providing some details, including the fact that leisure sales were expected to start in May 2022 .

“I think it’s like any major law. There will be people who are satisfied with it, there will be people who are less satisfied with it. You take the good with the bad, ”he said. “A lot of compromises have been made, we all know that – a lot of tension and a lot of emotion have flowed into this legislation this year. I think by and large people will see adult cannabis legislation that is perhaps the best in the country. “

But to meet this high standard, proponents are looking for particularly strong equity components to correct the injustice of the ban. And the first details that have surfaced do not satisfy these activists.

Specifically, they are opposed to a proposal to require those who qualify as equity business applicants to work with existing medical cannabis companies in the state to learn the trade.

To obtain a license for adult use, the state’s four current medical cannabis growers could pay a fee of $ 2 million or less when entering into such equity partnerships.

Public companies would be defined as those owned by individuals who grew up or lived in certain zip codes and who have an annual income of less than $ 250,000. During the negotiations, a proposal was reportedly abandoned to give priority to those convicted of drug convictions.

All new breeders would be equity applicants, and to get a license they would have to pay a fee of $ 3 million – a large sum, the outlet reported. Existing marijuana companies partnering with equity applicants would either have to put $ 500,000 into an equity fund or dedicate five percent of the floor space and possibly five percent of the profits to partners.

Proponents say that the requirement that emerging public companies work with existing large cannabis companies and share profits with them is not a prerequisite.

Here are some additional details on the upcoming cannabis compromise laws, according to the CT Post:

  • Growing up to six plants for personal use would initially be decriminalized and “could become completely legal within three years,” the report said. However, Rojas pointed out Thursday that medical marijuana patients could legally grow their own drugs.
  • The number of pharmacies is not specified in the bill and would be determined by market forces. New licenses would be awarded by lottery and it is not clear when sales would start.
  • The state’s general sales tax of 6.35 percent would apply to cannabis, and additional excise taxes roughly twice as much would be added, with 80 percent of the latter going to a social justice fund and 20 percent going to mental health and addiction help or
  • Testing labs would collect marijuana samples directly from grow facilities instead of allowing growers to select samples to send in for testing.
  • Marijuana companies would have to work under “project contracts” to pay unionized wages. They would also have to sign agreements with unions in which workers would agree to binding arbitration to settle disputes and would not have the right to strike.

However, the text of the law is not yet publicly available, so the final details remain to be seen.

Once the proposal is circulated among members, the bill will first be dealt with in the Senate, where the compromise language is expected to be incorporated into a governor-backed law on legalization that will be moved by two committees.

The move could be pushed back by progressive Democrats who have signaled that legislature leaders and the governor are acting too quickly and bypassing important social justice considerations.

MP Anne Hughes (D), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday that “we want to get it right,” and that could mean tackling reform in a special session – an option given by the leadership and the governor is rejected.

Ritter said last week that he thinks there is a 57:43 chance the law will be passed, whereas previously he gave him a 50:50 chance. However, it is uncertain whether he thinks that given the time constraints and backlash from Democratic members, those odds have changed.

Meanwhile, the governor recently said that he and legislature leaders are having “good, strong negotiations” and that there is “broad consensus” on public health and safety policies. There is a “growing agreement” on using marijuana tax revenue to invest in communities disproportionately harmed by the ban.

If legalization is not enacted this year, Lamont said last month the issue could ultimately go before voters.

“Marijuana is kind of interesting to me. If there is a popular vote through some sort of referendum, it is passed by an overwhelming majority. If it’s going through a legislative session and there are a lot of phone calls, it’s lean or doesn’t go through, ”said the governor. “We’re trying to do this through the legislature. People are chosen to make a decision and we’ll see where it leads. If not, we will likely end up in a referendum. “

Similarly, Ritter said last year that if lawmakers can’t pass a legalization bill, they’ll put a question on the state’s 2022 ballot that would leave matters to the voters.

According to recent polls, legalization would happen before voters.

64 percent of the state’s residents are in favor of legalizing cannabis for adult use, according to a survey by Sacred Heart University released last week.

A competing legalization move by Rep. Robyn Porter (D), favored by many legalization advocates for its focus on social justice, was approved by the Labor and Public Employees Committee in March.

Lamont, who had convened an informal working group in recent months to make policy change recommendations, first described his legalization plan as “a comprehensive framework for the cultivation, manufacture, sale, possession, use and taxation of cannabis that the prioritizes public health. public safety and social justice. “

But while proponents have heavily criticized the governor’s plan as inadequate when it comes to capital requirements, Ritter said in March that “optimism abounds” as lawmakers work to wrap proposals into final legalization law.

Rojas also said that “Fundamentally, equity is important to both administration and lawmakers, and we will work through these details.”

To this end, the majority leader said that working groups had been formed in the Democratic factions of the Legislature to consider the governor’s proposal and the reform law approved by the committee.

In February, during a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, a Lamont government official stressed that Lamont’s proposal was “not a final bill” and that activists were “at the table” to provide further information on the legislation.

Legislators have scrutinized legalization proposals several times over the past few years, including a bill the Democrats tabled on behalf of the governor last year. However, these bills have stalled.

Lamont reiterated his support for marijuana legalization during his annual State of the State Address in January, saying he would work with lawmakers to move reform forward at that session.

The governor compared the need for regional marijuana policy coordination to the response to the coronavirus, stating that officials “need to think regionally when it comes to how we deal with the pandemic – and I think we need to think regionally, when it comes to marijuana “. , also.”

He also said that legalization in Connecticut could potentially reduce the spread of COVID-19 by restricting travel outside of the state to purchase legal cannabis in neighboring states like Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Marijuana activists in Idaho are launching a limited campaign of legalization for the 2022 ballot

Photo courtesy Mike Latimer.

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