Connecticut Dems Call for Legalization in Budget Proposal

Connecticut Democrats have unveiled a budget proposal that recommends legalizing and taxing marijuana.


In a recently released budget proposal, Connecticut Democrats called for the legalization of marijuana use by adults 21 and older and for regulation and taxation of marijuana sales.

Unlike some of the long-delayed programs seen in other states, Connecticut wants to start cashing in quick. In the first year, adults would be able to purchase limited amounts from existing medical marijuana dispensaries.

During this early transition period, sales would be subject to a 25 percent tax — in addition to the standard 6.35 percent state sales tax — while a more robust regulatory structure comes into play. Once the state does license adult-use businesses, marijuana would be subject to an excise tax of $50 per ounce — in addition to the standard 6.35 percent state sales tax on retail sales.

An analysis of the plan estimates it would generate approximately $60 million in marijuana tax revenue in the first full year and $180 million in the second year.

States like Oregon and Nevada, which will commence adult sales on July 1st, also went for a more expedited approach. Places like California and Massachusetts, where a more gradual approach is being taken, would be considered the other end of the spectrum.

Sam Tracy, director of the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana — which has been leading the effort in Hartford — expressed optimism about the proposal in a statement on the budget plan.

“The Democrats’ proposal to regulate marijuana for adults would generate significant new tax revenue in addition to creating jobs for residents and business opportunities for other local industries,” Tracy said. “Hundreds of millions of dollars in annual marijuana sales have been taking place in Connecticut each year, and the state has not received a dime in tax revenue.”

Tracy emphasized just how rapidly the cash would begin to flow in once things got going.

“If the Legislature moves forward with this plan, the state could be bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue within just the next two years,” he said. “This is not the only reason or the best reason to regulate marijuana for adult use, but it is one of several good reasons.”

The wheels have been turning quickly in the state over the past few months. This past March, Cannabis Now reported on statehouse leaders starting their discussion on the issue well past midnight. At the time, four of the lawmakers pushing for legalization had decided to team up in hopes of moving the issue forward.

The ultimate result is a budget plan that could effectively make Connecticut the ninth state to legalize marijuana — provided Vermont Governor Phil Scott does not pick up the pen and sign the bill on his desk.

That would be a huge win (and major New England pot bragging rights) for a state where nearly two-thirds voters, 63 percent, support making possession of small amounts of marijuana legal for adults, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll conducted in March 2015.

Five months ago Connecticut legalizing before Vermont seemed nuts.

CCRM is obviously thrilled with the progress, but continues to look at the bigger impacts on a state that still sees thousands of cannabis arrests a year

“It would also allow law enforcement officials to spend more time addressing serious crimes instead of enforcing failed prohibition laws.” Tracy said. “Most Americans recognize that marijuana is safer than alcohol, and they want to see it treated that way. Kudos to the Democrats for proposing a plan that would do just that and bring a variety of benefits to the people of Connecticut.”

TELL US, do you think the Democrats can push legalization through the legislature?

Jimi Devine has been involved in the cannabis movement since 2005, and joined the industry full time in 2009 after moving to the Bay Area from Boston. He currently works with Smell the Truth on SFGate,The Hash Podcast, and was involved in the organization of New West Summit in San Francisco last Fall. His writings on cannabis products and policy have been seen in The Boston Globe, SFGate, The Hill, The Chronicle of Higher Education, StopTheDrugWar.org, and HailMaryJane.com.

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