Exciting news! As you may recall, in April the Judiciary Committee advanced an amended version of Gov. Lamont’s proposal to legalize cannabis for adults over the age of 21 on a 22-16 vote. The final language the committee approved was a major improvement over the bill as-introduced. Lawmakers have now reached an agreement on the details of legalization — now S.B. 1118 — with a Senate vote expected on Monday.
Some key features of the new bill — which is sponsored by Senate President Martin Looney and House Speaker Matt Ritter — are:
- Social equity applicant status is defined as an applicant for a cannabis establishment license that is at least 65% owned and controlled by one or more individuals who lived in a disproportionately impacted area for either at least five of the past 10 years or nine of their first 17 years of life.
- A disproportionately impacted area is a census tract that has either an unemployment rate of over 10% or that has a high rate of drug arrests over the past 40 years.
- Social equity applicants must also have a median income for the last three years that was no more than triple the state’s median income.
- Dedicates 50% of the maximum number of each license type for social equity applicants.
- Allows existing medical businesses to become licensed after paying a hefty conversion fees that are directed to social equity start-up; the fee can be reduced by half if they incubate one to two social equity businesses.
- Allows adults to possess up to one and a half ounces on their person and allows up to five ounces in a locked location in one’s home, the person’s locked glove box, or their vehicle’s trunk.
- Decriminalizes first offense of possession of more than five ounces on one's person and more than eight ounces in one’s home, person’s locked glove box, or their vehicle, and cultivation of up to six plants.
- Starting October 1, 2021, allows medical patients who are at least 18 to securely cultivate up to three mature and three immature plants in their homes.
- Starting July 1, 2023, allows all adults 21 and older to securely cultivate up to three mature mature and three immature plants in their homes.
- Creates a free, automatic erasure process for cannabis possession and sale convictions up to four ounces or six mature plants.
- Eliminates law enforcement’s ability to initiate a search on the basis of odor of cannabis or burnt cannabis.
- Creates $50 million in bonding for initial funding for start-up capital for social equity applicants, the cannabis business accelerator program, and workforce training developed by the Social Equity Council.
- Beginning on July 1, 2023, directs 60% to 75% of the cannabis excise tax revenue to the Social Equity and Innovation Fund. Social Equity and Innovation funds can be used to promote social equity in relation to access to capital for businesses, funding workforce education; and funding for community investments.
- Beginning on July 1, 2023, directs 25% of cannabis excise tax revenue to the Prevention and Recovery Services Fund for substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services, and collection and analysis of data regarding substance use.
- Establishes the Social Equity Council to further develop equity criteria, priority in licensing and direct cannabis revenue.
- Creates a cannabis business accelerator program.
Although the bill is a vast improvement from what was presented in earlier versions of S.B. 888, we still have concerns that the language could be better tailored to assure equity applicants are at the forefront of the licensing process. We’ll continue pushing for those provisions to be removed but still strongly support the bill’s passage as it contains a ton of good provisions and is far better than the status quo. You can check out a full summary of the updated bill here.
The bill needs 21 votes to secure passage in the Senate and advance to the House. Time is short: Both chambers adjourn at midnight on June 9. That’s why it’s critical that you contact your state senator and tell them to vote YES on S.B. 1118. With your continued support, I know we can get this across the finish line before the legislature adjourns.