We recently wrote about the failure of state legislatures in New York, New Jersey, and Vermont to pass recreational marijuana legislation this year, despite initial optimism. You can now add Connecticut to that list. But unlike those other states, where there is at least hope for legislation in upcoming sessions, proponents of legalization in Connecticut are anticipating a protracted fight.
State Representative Josh Elliott, who co-sponsored the legalization bill this year, now believes that the timeline for legalization could extend to 2022. Although Democrats have majorities in both the State House and State Senate, Republicans have been unified against legalization and there has been a general sense of apathy amongst legalization supporters. Marijuana has already been decriminalized in Connecticut, and as Representative Elliot noted, “[i]f it’s already decriminalized, some people feel that full legalization really isn’t all that necessary.”
We are not as bearish on Connecticut’s prospects. The Northeast has experienced a domino effect, with failure in one state diminishing the sense of urgency in other states and contributing to the failure in those states. But if New York and/or New Jersey pass recreational marijuana legislation in 2020, which is certainly possible, that will likely change the calculus. Connecticut already has neighboring Massachusetts with legal marijuana, and if New York and/or New Jersey pass legislation, Connecticut residents will have easy access to legalized recreational marijuana but Connecticut will not be receiving any of the tax revenue. That will likely increase the sense of urgency amongst legislators, and we suspect, revive momentum for legalization. In addition, with greater access to marijuana in neighboring states, Connecticut residents may intensify the demand for safe and legal marijuana in their own state. Our recommendation: keep an eye on New York and New Jersey. If they go legal in 2020, Connecticut likely will not be far behind.