Connecticut Legalizes Marijuana to Combat ‘Racial Disparities’

Man Smoking a Joint

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed a bill into law Tuesday that legalizes possession of marijuana in the state and anticipates retail sales of the drug in 2022.

The new law allows people age 21 and older to possess or use marijuana up to the specified possession limit of 1.5 ounces on their person and five ounces in their home or car.

The law also establishes penalties for use by those under 21, or possession of an amount greater than permitted by the law. Additionally, it removes most cannabis sales offenses from the state’s list of serious juvenile offenses.

The bill was passed under the umbrella of “social justice,” to combat “racial disparities,” and will place with a Social Equity Council the task of how to regulate the new legal marijuana market so that it becomes “an instrument for addressing racial, social and economic injustice,” reported CT Mirror.

“Those communities were hardest hit by the war on drugs — making up for some lost time there,” Lamont said, adding he expects his state’s new law will be “viewed as a national model.”

The governor and the state’s lawmakers will make appointments to the council that will be “charged with promoting participation in the new industry by people from communities disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement,” the CT Mirror report noted.

According to the plan, social equity applicants from census tracts in Connecticut that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs will receive 50 percent of all the licenses granted for the cultivation and marketing of recreational marijuana.

While the law bans the smoking of marijuana in state parks and on Connecticut’s waterways, it requires every community with a population of 50,000 or more to set aside a designated space for smoking the drug.

Connecticut is now the 19th state to legalize recreational use of marijuana. The bill passed both chambers of the General Assembly last week during a special legislative session, but was strongly opposed by Republicans and some Democrats during debate, reported NPR.

The Connecticut Medical Society also strongly opposed the bill, stating it was “deeply disappointed” that Lamont signed it into law. The group asserted that legalization of marijuana will have “harmful, even devastating effects,” particularly on young people.

“Physicians base our opinions on science, data from peer-reviewed writings, observation and patient interaction – which is why we believe the recreational use of marijuana is bad science, bad policy, and dangerous to Connecticut’s public health,” said Dr. Gregory Shangold, president of the medical society.

Shangold added his organization believes there are “more effective ways” to counter racial disparities than legalizing marijuana.


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