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Connecticut Marijuana Bill On Verge Of Passage Touted As Comprehensive, Well Thought Out

Jeff Chiu

Connecticut may be on the verge of legalizing recreational marijuana after years of debate. A bill has passed the state Senate — it’s now before the House of Representatives, and Governor Ned Lamont said he’ll sign it.

Supporters say the bill is meant to address the War on Drugs, which led to disproportionate incarceration rates among people of color. DeVaughn Ward is with the Marijuana Policy Project. He was part of a marijuana equity task force set up by Governor Ned Lamont.

“A lot of folks have criticized the delay, but the benefit that Connecticut has had is that we’ve been able to look at some of the lessons learned, some of the best practices from other states. And the bill that passed the Senate is one of the most comprehensive and well-thought-out bills in the country. It is truly a state of the deal piece of legislation,” Ward said.

The bill sets aside a certain number of vendors’ licenses for people from communities that most suffered the brunt of prohibition. Much of the revenue from sales will go to communities of color.

“You’ll start seeing tens of millions of dollars being directed back into community reinvestment. Things like after-school programs, streetscape improvements, enrichment activities for youths. The hope is they have positive outcome,” Ward said.

And Ward — who’s also an attorney in Hartford — said the bill lets many people with marijuana sales and possession convictions have their records expunged.

“I often see young folks, particularly young folks from communities of color, blocking down our criminal courts with possession charges, sale charges. And that won’t happen anymore,” Ward said.

If the bill becomes law, officials said the state’s marijuana marketplace could be ready by May of next year.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.