With the passage of Bill No. 1201 on June 22, Connecticut joins the growing ranks of states that have legalized recreational marijuana use. Moreover, Connecticut moved aggressively to redress the punitive nature of previous cannabis laws that lead to imprisonment for possession of small amounts of marijuana, particularly for citizens from communities of color.
Connecticut’s 1201: Details on Usage
The bill, aptly titled An Act Concerning Responsible and Equitable Regulation of Adult-Use Cannabis, has a pronounced social justice component which seeks to ameliorate the disproportionate damage done by previous anti-marijuana legislation and the ensuing policing strategies. State Senator Gary Winfield stated, “The things that have happened under the war on drugs are that we have targeted certain communities, things that have happened, we existed under a legal scheme, laws that are just not just.”
According to the organization Marijuana Policy Project, the law states that people aged 21 and older may:
- possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis or an equivalent amount of cannabis products or concentrates;
- possess up to five ounces of cannabis or an equivalent amount in a locked container in the person’s residence, the person’s locked glove box, or their vehicle’s trunk.
Bill No. 1201 also tackles the issue associated with concentrated cannabis products, such as those ingested through vaping. These products typically carry stiffer penalties for possession due to high amounts of THC concentrate, the primary cannabinoid associated with the euphoric effects of marijuana. To address this issue, 1201 defines language regarding this concept of “equivalency,” stipulating the following:
(i) (1) For purposes of determining any amount or limit specified in 390 this section and RERACA, one ounce of cannabis plant material shall be 391 considered equivalent to (A) five grams of cannabis concentrate, or (B) 392 any other cannabis products with up to five hundred milligrams of 393 THC. 394
(2) For purposes of subsection (a) of this section, one and one-half 395 ounces of cannabis plant material shall be considered equivalent to (A) 396 seven and one-half grams of cannabis concentrate, or (B) any other 397 cannabis products with up to seven hundred fifty milligrams of THC. 398
(3) For purposes of subsections (b) to (e), inclusive, of this section, five 399 ounces of cannabis plant material shall be considered equivalent to (i) 400 twenty-five grams of cannabis concentrate, or (ii) any other cannabis 401 products with up to two thousand five hundred milligrams of THC.
Connecticut’s 1201: Decriminalization
Moreover, Connecticut’s bill decriminalizes possession of fewer than five ounces on one’s person and fewer than eight ounces found in a vehicle’s trunk or locked glove box, instead opting for a civil fine over jail time.
Regarding medical marijuana, 1201 allows (starting October 1) , “Any qualifying patient who is eighteen years of age or older” to cultivate up to three mature cannabis plants and three immature cannabis plants in the patient’s primary residence at any given time.” The law additionally “decriminalizes first offense of illegally manufacturing, selling, or possessing with intent to sell up to eight ounces,” as well as forbidding law enforcement from using the odor of burnt cannabis as justification for stopping and searching people.
In line with its title, the law acknowledges and seeks to address the negative impact of marijuana laws, now repealed by 1201. Specifically, beginning January 1, 2022, the law prohibits the revoking of parole based on simple possession charges and empowers individuals to petition for erasure of prior convictions for possession, drug paraphernalia, and sale and manufacture of four or fewer ounces or six or fewer plants.
In a parallel fashion, beginning January 2023, 1201 provides a mechanism for automatic erasures of convictions received during the period of January 1, 2000 through September 15, 2015 for possession of fewer than four ounces.
There are also provisions in 1201 that restrict the following actions regarding the use of cannabis by individuals or the testing of individuals for the use of cannabis:
- the punishments schools may administer
- the actions of landlords can take
- the denying of professional licensing
- steps taken by the Department of Children and Families regarding the welfare of children
- denial of learning opportunities for students
Connecticut’s 1201: An Equity Framework
The law also spells out conditions for the usage and penalties regarding people ages 18-20, and delineates how tax revenue will be used. In fact, it specifically addresses perceived inequities by allocating a progressive amount of funds to the Social Equity and Innovation Fund, which will be used to improve economically disadvantaged communities.
And, within that equity framework, the law takes specific measures to create “equity joint measures” that would empower and subsidize individuals from disproportionately impacted areas to establish and operate cannabis businesses. All told, 1201 is a comprehensive piece of legislation that not only legalizes recreational marijuana, but sets forth a bold agenda to redress perceived long-standing inequities in the established criminal justice system.
In a moment that recognized the irony of the situation, Governor Ned Lamont stated, “It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war.” And although the war is not over, cannabis advocates can claim a major battle victory in the “Constitution State.”
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