Connecticut is the newest state to enact laws that allow recreational marijuana use by adults (about time!) And this should be a cause for celebration for our Nutmegger colleagues. In fact, according to the latest polls, nearly two-thirds of Connecticut residents agree.
Our lawmakers’ milestone vote earlier this summer was amid a wave of recent legalization from the Northeast, including our neighbors in New Jersey and New York. Massachusetts led the way in legalizing cannabis in 2016, while Rhode Island, where cannabis is currently decriminalized, is expected to embark on legalization later this year. Legalization is a game of dominoes in which states cannot fall behind their neighbors or bear the consequences.
Many people, myself included, think it is high time (pun very intentional) that we recognized the wisdom of adult legalization of cannabis use, not only from an economic perspective but also from a social justice perspective. After the bill was passed, Governor Ned Lamont addressed the injustices of minority communities directly while pointing out that criminalization does little to protect public health and safety.
On the business side, almost every expert believes that legal marijuana will provide a much-needed business boost. In February, Lamont released a forecast that sales of an adult cannabis program would generate tax revenues of approximately $ 33.6 million from May 2022 through fiscal year 2023. That figure would climb to $ 97 million by 2026 as employment and investment in new retail facilities grow. If the program is properly implemented, these numbers could be even bigger besides tackling the illegal sale of cannabis.
No matter which side of the political spectrum you are on, I think we would find consensus on the view that Connecticut taxpayers are overwhelmed and property taxes are too high. The COVID pandemic has only made the situation worse. With this in mind, is there a better time for new sources of income?
The best part of these economic benefits is that they are shared with those who need them most. The Connecticut bill provides for a Social Justice Council and Social Justice and Innovation Fund to appropriate marijuana sales tax revenues and grant marijuana business licenses to lower-income applicants who have lived in geographic areas that are disproportionate have been badly affected by the drug war. Our cities are winning because a significant portion of the revenue generated should be used for community reinvestment. You will continue to win if the programs in place avoid some of the pitfalls of other social justice programs and help with not only licensing but also business operations – something that has been overlooked in many cases.
Possession of certain amounts for personal use is now legal – if you’re 21 years old – but retail sales won’t have to wait until next May at the earliest. People who want to grow marijuana plants for their own recreational use will have to wait until 2023, but home growing for authorized medical patients can begin as early as October this year – and getting a medical card isn’t difficult.
Connecticut is now the 19th state to legalize recreational marijuana use, but it remains an illegal drug under federal law (and under those federal laws it is somehow classified as more dangerous than heroin, cocaine, or any opioid). And while legalization makes good business sense, let’s not forget the implications for the criminal justice system, both here in our own state and at the national level, where in parts of the country just owning weed can still land you in jail.
It may surprise you to know that if you ask most of the people in law enforcement, they also agree that recreational cannabis should be legal. So, in the words of legendary reggae artist Peter Tosh: “You have to legalize it”. I think this is not only true in Connecticut, but hopefully everywhere in the not too distant future. I commend our state legislators for helping to lead the way.
Harry DeMott from New Canaan is the founder and CEO of A Proper High, an e-commerce website.