Updated on October 1, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Adult-use in Connecticut has just been legalized. As of July 1, 2021, it is now legal for any adult 21 years of age or older to possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana. The Connecticut Legislature passed Senate Bill 1201 on June 17, 2021. Governor Ned Lamont signed it on June 22, 2021.
Included in Bill 1201 are decriminalization measures for cannabis offenses. The new laws reduced the possession penalty of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor charge. That carried with it a $1,000 fine and one year in jail. Now, possession of cannabis in Connecticut is a non-criminal offense with a $150 fine, without incarceration or a criminal record.
Residents of Connecticut that have a previous non-violent cannabis-related charge will be able to petition the Supreme Court starting in 2022 for expungement. The new adult-use laws in the state will bring some new legal freedoms for people who want to use and grow cannabis at home.
The bad news is that people living in Connecticut will be waiting about a year before they can purchase marijuana at a recreational dispensary. And growing cannabis at home for people who do not have a medical card will not be legalized for about two more years.
Where Can You Legally Use Cannabis in Connecticut?
The state of Connecticut has enacted laws consistent with anti-smoking health regulations. For example, the law states that there is no smoking in hotels, prisons, resorts, or psychiatric treatment centers. There is also no smoking in state buildings.
In some facilities and institutions, a special smoking space had been established, for example, by employers who allow a smoking section for staff. If it is indoor, it will no longer be allowed in Connecticut. It doesn’t matter whether you are vaping, smoking tobacco products, or bud; you can’t smoke indoors to protect public health.
Can People with Marijuana Charges in Connecticut Apply for Expungement?
Connecticut lawmakers haven’t issued a full carte blanche on cannabis convictions. If you are a resident charged with personal use amounts (4 ounces or less of weed) before January 1, 2000, you can apply for expungement. Also, if you were charged between October 1, 2015, and June 30, 2021, you can also petition the Connecticut Supreme Court to erase your criminal record.
If you would like a prior charge to be expunged, you will have to wait until July 1, 2022. Then you will have to file a special petition with the Connecticut Superior Court. As long as your charge was for personal use and not distribution or a charge that involved a weapon or violent crime, you have a good chance of getting it expunged.
When Can You Start Legally Growing Cannabis at Home in Connecticut Without a Medical Card?
If you do not currently have a medical card or are not eligible to get a Connecticut medical card, you will be waiting. Adults who are aged twenty-one (21) years or older will not be permitted to grow marijuana at home until July 2023. Just over two years from now.
Recreational users will also be limited to a set number of plants by household. For example, every household will be able to grow up to twelve (12) cannabis plants. If there is only one resident in the home, they will be limited to six (6) plants. If you have four people over 18 years living in the same residence, the maximum number of plants legally permitted will remain the same. You won’t be able to have more than a dozen plants for two or more people.
Can Employers in Connecticut Still Test for THC?
The new laws that have legalized recreational cannabis in Connecticut did not provide many protections for employees. Employers still have the right to request that employees submit to random drug testing.
While some states have provided legal recourse for wrongful dismissal (due to testing positive for THC), Connecticut did not. No employer is required to make any special accommodations for an employee that uses marijuana unless they are a registered patient in the Connecticut medical cannabis program and have a medical card.
An employer in Connecticut has the right to dismiss any employee for drug use. Even if they are using cannabis outside of working hours, some employers will definitely use drug testing as a method of reason for dismissal. But in other states, more employers have simply stopped random testing unless they are concerned about sobriety at work or safety hazards specific to the employee.
When Will Recreational Dispensaries Open in CT?
Even though people voted for and supported the legalization of adult-use in Connecticut, getting recreational dispensaries set up will take some time. There will be a limited number of licenses for manufacturers and processors, delivery companies and logistics, and cultivators.
The cost of entry into the lottery for a cannabis license in Connecticut will range from $250 to $1,000. Connecticut lawmakers have determined that 50% of all cannabis business licenses will be reserved for social equity applicants. That means entrepreneurs who are persons of color will qualify for half of them.
The first step will be awarding the licenses. Then, the businesses will get established. This takes time. So, while residents in Connected are excited about legalized cannabis, it won’t be until mid to late 2022 that the first recreational dispensaries open up.
Can Small Towns and Cities Say ‘No’ to Recreational Dispensaries?
Because cannabis remains prohibited by the federal government, and there is a conflict between state and federal law, communities are usually free to choose. The state typically does not force cities or towns to accept adult-use legalization. It is up to the community to choose for themselves.
So, if you live in a city or town that bans recreational cannabis, you are out of luck. You won’t be able to visit a local dispensary. However, it is still legal if you order your cannabis products from a dispensary located in another town or city and have them delivered. And something your local municipality cannot interfere with. Delivery is a great solution if your community decides to ban adult-use.