On June 17, 2021, the Connecticut Legislature passed a bill
allowing the state to legalize use of cannabis for people 21 years
of age or older, which was subsequently signed into law by Governor
Ned Lamont on June 22, 2021. As of July 1, 2021, adult use of
cannabis is legal in Connecticut.
The new legislation expands the June 2012 legalization of
medical marijuana under Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s prior
Senate Bill 1201 legalizes cannabis use for adults over the age
of 21 years, limited to no more than 1.54 ounces of cannabis on
their person, and no more than 5 ounces in their homes or locked in
their car, truck or glove box. Further, all adults age 21 and over
will be permitted to grow six cannabis plants indoors within their
homes beginning July 1, 2023.
Senate Bill 1201 reduces the penalties for the adult possession of
up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly
punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to a non-criminal
infraction, punishable by a $150 fine with no arrest or jail time
and no criminal record. The new law similarly reduces penalties for
the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. The expungement of minor
offenses dealing with cannabis will help many individuals acquire
better employment opportunities, which will lead to a growing
Criminalization of Cannabis over 1.5 Ounces
Further, although Connecticut has legalized marijuana, the law
remains a sliding scale when defining a criminal offense.
- Carrying anything over 1.5 ounces for personal use is still
illegal, with higher fines for subsequent offenses. A subsequent
offense of possession of 1.5 ounces of cannabis is a non-criminal
infraction, but the fine rises to $200-$500.
- A first offense of possession of 1.5 to 4 ounces is a
misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and $1,000 in
fines; this also triggers immigration consequences for non?U.S.
citizens. A subsequent offense becomes a felony punishable by up to
5 years’ incarceration and a $3,000 fine.
- A first offense of possession of 4 ounces or more is a felony
punishable by 5 years’ imprisonment and a $2,000 fine.
Subsequent offenses are punishable by 10 years in jail and a fine
- The minimum mandatory sentence for possession of marijuana
within 1,500 feet of a school is 2 years’ incarceration
(without monetary fine) that runs consecutively with any other
Cannabis Market in Connecticut
At this time, selling any amount of marijuana is illegal and a
felony punishable by no less than 7 years in jail and $25,000 in
fines. Selling to minors and possessing within 1,500 feet of a
school or day care center are both felonies, which add 3 years’
imprisonment to any other sentence imposed.
Possession of larger amounts of marijuana is still illegal and
punishable by imprisonment and monetary fines. Commercial sale of
cannabis will begin as early as May 2022.
The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (CDCP) is not
accepting applications for cannabis dispensaries nor has it given
any recent guidelines for cannabis distributors. Based on the
CDCP’s 2018 Request for Application (RFA) for cannabis
facilities, it is fair to say that we can expect the CDCP to award
between 3 and 10 dispensary facility licenses for locations
throughout the state. The licenses will be awarded on a competitive
basis after the CDCP evaluates timely applications.
For now, individuals, except non?U.S. citizens, who wish to
partake in cannabis can travel to Connecticut’s neighboring
states, Massachusetts and New Jersey, to legally purchase
State Legalization versus Federal Law
Connecticut is among 18 states plus Washington, D.C. and Guam
that have fully legalized cannabis, the other states are Alaska,
Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts,
Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York,
Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. To date, 37 states and
Washington D.C., Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands have passed at least
some legislation allowing legal medical cannabis use.
Despite the growing trend among the states to legalize the use
of marijuana, medical and/or personal use remain illegal at the
federal level. As such, there is disparity with regard to the
impact on individuals who have a prior criminal record as a result
of cannabis, affecting federal employment opportunities.
This impact is more severe on individuals who are not U.S.
citizens, which can adversely impact their immigration status as
well as significantly impact their lives. Whether prior to or
subsequent to Connecticut’s legalization of cannabis, persons ?
including employees who work in the cannabis industry ? who admit
to using or benefit financially from selling, manufacturing or
investing in the industry can be denied entry to the United States,
denied applications for naturalization or permanent residency
(green card), be subjected to mandatory detention and in some cases
be removed from the United States.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.