HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) – State lawmakers kicked off a special session at the state capitol Tuesday morning to hash out the details on two critically important topics: The budget and recreational marijuana.
The discussions that will happen during the special session will have repercussions on millions of Connecticut residents for years to come.
Connecticut lawmakers closed out what turned out to be an unusual legislative session due to the pandemic.
When the legislative session ended last week, lawmakers said they already knew they still had some major work ahead of them.
State senators returned to the capitol Tuesday morning and members of the House of Representatives come back Wednesday.
The plan is to work on the state budget and legalizing recreational marijuana.
The Senate narrowly passed a proposal to greenlight the sale of recreational marijuana, but that bill went up in smoke because the House failed to come to an agreement during the regular session. Gov. Ned Lamont responded by calling for the special session, which brought lawmakers to where they were Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday evening, the Senate voted to approve recreational marijuana. it will now head to the House of Representatives for a vote that’s expected on Wednesday, but Governor Ned Lamont promised to veto the bill.
An amendment was added on right before the vote and Lamont’s staff said it doesn’t meet the goals of what was laid out in negotiations for equity.
Following the vote, Lamont’s Chief of Staff, Paul Mounds Jr., released a statement saying, “The amendment approved by the Connecticut State Senate to adult use cannabis bill this afternoon, simply put, does not meet the goals laid out during negotiations when it comes to equity and ensuring the wrongs of the past are righted. To the contrary, this proposal opens the floodgates for tens of thousands of previously ineligible applicants to enter the adult-use cannabis industry. This last-minute amendment creates equity in name only by allowing these individuals expedited opportunity to obtain access to the marketplace. Governor Lamont has said from the beginning that this legislation must allow those most impacted by the war on drugs to have a fair shot in the process to enter into this new industry. This measure as amended fails to achieve the goals and the needs of our state when it comes to equity. Senate Bill 1201 now allows just about anyone with a history of cannabis crimes or a member of their family, regardless of financial means, who was once arrested on simple possession to be considered with the same weight as someone from a neighborhood who has seen many of their friends and loved ones face significant penalties and discrimination due to their past cannabis crimes. That is not equity, and Governor Lamont will veto this bill if it reaches his desk in its current form.”
“What’s becoming more and more abundantly clear is that this whole bill is about the money,” said Senator Kevin Kelly.
The amendment allows an individual their parents or a child with a prior conviction for marijuana to get an equity license to grow and sell legal week.
Equity has been a big part of the legislations. The intent was to give people of color and those in distressed communities opportunities.
Lamont feels this amendment would give wealthy people the same opportunities.
“Well, that’s certainly something that was not our intent or not what we believe was the purpose of the bill, but we did opt this language at the expressed request of a group in the House whose support was necessary to make the bill pass,” said Senator Martin Looney.
The House is expected to take up marijuana on Wednesday with the amendment and they could make changes and send it back to the Senate. The Senate would then vote for a third time.
The Senate also discussed the budget on Tuesday.
Both chambers hammered out a 2-year $46 billion budget last week that does not require a tax increase or any spending cuts. Despite the agreement however, lawmakers were not able to put the finishing touches on it before a June 9 deadline, so both sides will have to sign off on an implementer bill during the special session.
Many Republicans voted for the budget but say the implementer has much more in it.
“Just because you are in the majority party doesn’t mean you should act this way,” said Republican State Senator Craig Miner.
In the implementer is a controversial proposal to strip funding from towns with schools with Native American nicknames or mascots. Killingly made national news by reinstating “Red Men” as their high school mascot.
Senator Cathy Osten wrote the language. Her district is home to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, and she said schools would lose their share of state aid generated by the casinos.
“When are we going to address this issue. Do we tell them they have to sit down and wait their turn -when does their turn come up? They were here first, and we should start recognizing that,” Osten said.
The session started at 11 a.m.
Stay with Channel 3 for continuing coverage.
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