House passes recreational marijuana bill after removing controversial amendment

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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - A recreational marijuana bill took a major step toward becoming law, but the governor threatened to veto it over an eleventh-hour amendment.

On Wednesday morning, things didn't look good, and some were saying the marijuana bill was dead.

Gov. Ned Lamont even threatened to veto the bill if it landed on his desk in that form.

A recreational marijuana bill took a major step toward becoming law, but the governor threatened to veto it over an eleventh-hour amendment.

However, the House of Representatives took that controversial amendment out.

On Wednesday night, The House passed the bill 76 to 62 with 13 not voting. 

"This has been attempted for years. It's a long time coming. We got a lot of good people around the table. We had leadership from Governor Lamont on this and we were able to work out the details, which were difficult," said Rep. Jason Rojas. 

A recreational marijuana bill took a major step toward becoming law, but the governor threatened to veto it over an eleventh-hour amendment.

“When the governor says he’s going to veto it, that was the end of the conversation for a lot of our folks," said House Speaker Matt Ritter.

Lamont remained optimistic earlier in the day that lawmakers would get a version of the bill passed. 

Gov. Ned Lamont answered questions about the recreational marijuana bill on June 16.

"The Senate passed a really good marijuana bill a week ago. The bill had been carefully negotiated over a period of time. We were going to have a very safe product for cannabis use for adults only," Lamont said. "There were a couple of curveballs that came in late last night. And I think you're going to see the House go back and pass what was originally the agreed upon bill, and I think we're going to get something passed within a week."

The bill passed through the state Senate on Tuesday and shifted to the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.

State lawmakers will kick 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.

That was expected. The surprise was the last second amendment.

The House majority leader and speak discussed the recreational marijuana bill on June 16.

Lamont threatened a veto, and his chief of staff said it didn’t meet the goals of what was laid out in negotiations for equity. Equity would give people in distressed communities, communities hard hit by crime and drugs, opportunities to get licenses to grow and sell.

"What happened late [Tuesday] night, an amendment came in that changed the terms of equity that I think a lot of people find uncomfortable," Lamont said.

Chief of Staff Paul Mounds said the new amendment opened the “floodgates for tens of thousands of previously ineligible applicants to enter the adult-use cannabis industry.”

The amendment, which was proposed by Sen. Gary Winfield, allowed an individual, their parents or a child with a prior conviction for marijuana to get an equity license to grow and sell legal weed.

Lamont felt that would give wealthy people the same opportunities as people from distressed communities. He said that's not what was intended.

Connecticut lawmakers closed out what turned out to be an unusual legislative session due to the pandemic.

Support for the amendment came from State Rep. Robyn Porter, a strong supporter of equity. When the governor promised a veto, she posted “I wish he would I dare him.”

However, the amendment is now out, and Lamont plans to sign the bill.

“We reached an agreement on how we can have legally regulated cannabis for adult use,” he said.

Since the bill passed the House, it will have to go back to the Senate for a third time for approval.

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