East Coast Cannabis Setting TrendsNew legalizations present a massive opportunity for industry expansion.
Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut signed a bill last week legalizing adult-use cannabis, making the Constitution State the 19th state to end cannabis prohibition for anyone over the age of 21.
“For decades, the war on cannabis caused injustices and created disparities while doing little to protect public health and safety,” Governor Lamont said in an official statement on the state’s website. “The law that I signed today begins to right some of those wrongs by creating a comprehensive framework for a regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, criminal justice, and equity. It will help eliminate the dangerous, unregulated market and support a new and equitable sector of our economy that will create jobs.
“This measure is comprehensive, protects our children and the most vulnerable in our communities, and will be viewed as a national model for regulating adult-use cannabis. By signing this into law today, we are helping our state move beyond this terrible period of incarceration and injustice.”
The Connecticut cannabis legalization bill establishes,
- Possession limited to 1.5 ounces on their person, 5-ounce limit in home
- Retail sales to begin 2022, and includes regulation for Delta-8 & Delta-10
- Personal growing is permitted for up to six plants. Medical patients can begin growing on October 1st of this year; recreational growers will be allowed to grow starting in July of 2023
- Automatic expungement of convictions between January 2000 and October 2015
- Taxes are estimated to be about 4% lower than New York and comparable to Massachusetts
- Edible doses will be limited to 5mg THC per serving, and other products will be subject to a potency cap
In addition to establishing the basic guidelines for the industry, the bill also includes establishing social equity programs and support for substance misuse and prevention. It includes guidelines for advertising, employee drug testing, when and where cannabis use is prohibited, and efforts to prevent underage use.
A Noticeable Trend
Connecticut changes signal momentum for cannabis legalization, as it becomes the fourth state in 2021 to move forward with the legislation (others include New Mexico, New York, and Virginia). Meanwhile, Virginia’s legalization, which takes effect on July 1st, allows for possession, consumption, and cultivation for home growers. However, residents won’t see commercial retail stores open until 2024. As mentioned in a previous article on Cannabis Tech, another east coast state where we may see changes this year is Rhode Island. Although the Senate passed the bill, it’s doubtful that the measure will get passed during this legislative session, ending on June 30th.
Yet, an article from the Motley Fool suggests that a few other states may be close behind. Although legalization failed in Minnesota 2018, despite support from the voters, The Gopher State is anticipated to be next on the list. After the events that unfolded in Minneapolis last year, social justice and police reform are high on the list of priorities for lawmakers. Legalizing cannabis, records expungement, and social equity programs may be the cornerstones of change for Minnesota residents.
Additionally, expect cannabis tourism to boom when Hawaii makes a motion toward cannabis legalization. The only thing standing in the way at this point is the state’s governor, who has vetoed several bills passed by state legislators. Fortunately for the Aloha State, Gov. David Ige’s term is finished in December 2022.
Federal Legalization Not a Magic Wand
As each state passes new laws to allow the cultivation, distribution, and consumption of cannabis, an industry anxiously awaits federal change to signal the green light. While businesses anticipate federal legalization to open up banking and other benefits of incorporation, it won’t be a magic wand for state changes.
Just as alcohol prohibition ended slowly, expect a few states to hold out on legalization despite changes at the federal level. The legal hemp industry has already proven that federally legal crops can still be banned at the state level. For example, in Iowa, federally legal hemp is still banned as a smokable product, and possession is punishable with the same fines and imprisonment as THC-rich cannabis.
Although the conversation surrounding cannabis legalization has changed from “if” to “when,” there are still a few challenges to overcome. In the meantime, as the leaders of each state grow tired of waiting for change on a national level, expect to see a growing movement of legislative changes on a more local level.
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