Connecticut Becomes Fourth State to Legalize Marijuana This Year, Sales to Begin in 2022

Connecticut has become the fourth state this year to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Democratic Governor Ned Lamont on Tuesday signed a sweeping 300-page bill that will allow residents 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis in public spaces—and up to 5 ounces at home or in the trunk of a vehicle—starting July 1.

"I think it is a model for the rest of the nation," Lamont said of the bill. "We had a chance to learn from others, and I think we've got it right here in the state of Connecticut."

Retail sales of the drug aren't expected to begin until May 2022, at the earliest. One study conducted by a University of Connecticut economist last year said legalizing recreational marijuana would generate between $784 million and $952 million in state tax revenue over five years.

Connecticut follows in the footsteps of New York, New Mexico and Virginia in passing legislation this year to legalize the drug for recreational use. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use since 2012.

The Connecticut Senate passed the bill on June 17, exactly 50 years after President Richard Nixon designated drugs as "America's public enemy number one."

Lamont said in a statement it was a "fitting" anniversary for the bill to be passed by state lawmakers.

"The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety," the governor said.

Along with legalizing cannabis, the legislation will automatically expunge records for people with past criminal records for activities involving up to 4 ounces of cannabis. Those with convictions for more serious offenses will be able to petition the courts for relief.

It also mandates that people from cities that have been the most affected by the war on drugs will qualify for expedited business licenses.

Connecticut Fourth State to Legalize Marijuana 2021
A budtender displays cannabis at the Higher Path medical marijuana dispensary in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles on December 27, 2017. This week, Connecticut became the latest state to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

As more states take action to legalize marijuana within their borders, Democrats have introduced multiple bills in Congress aimed at decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level.

Last week, progressives in the House of Representatives unveiled a bill to end criminal penalties for personal use possession of all scheduled drugs—including marijuana, heroin and cocaine—and automatically expunge records and provide for resentencing for those serving time for certain drug-related arrests.

In May, Representative Jerry Nadler and others reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. The bill would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, where it currently shares the same drug classification as heroin and ecstasy.

"Since I introduced the MORE Act last Congress, numerous states across the nation, including my home state of New York, have moved to legalize marijuana. Our federal laws must keep up with this pace," Nadler said in a statement.