Legal marijuana possession tops list of new Connecticut laws
A host of new laws are scheduled to take effect on Thursday, most notably the one that will allow adults 21 and older to legally possess small quantities of marijuana. It marks the first step in Connecticut’s move toward a legalized system.
Earlier this month, on the heels of the regular 2021 session, state lawmakers voted in favor of the wide-ranging cannabis legalization legislation. It lays the groundwork for a new, legal cannabis industry in the state and attempts to address racial inequities stemming from the nation’s war on drugs.
It’s likely going to take at least a year before an industry is up and running.
Other new laws that take effect on July 1 run the gamut, from expanded access to birth certificates for adoptees to the creation of a new 22-member commission that will study any disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and begin making policy recommendations to the legislature by Jan. 1.
Here are some highlights of the latest new laws in Connecticut: ___
Beginning July 1, the new law will allow individuals age 21 and older to possess or consume up to 1.5 ounces (42.5 grams) of “cannabis plant material” and up to 5 ounces (141.7 grams) in a locked container in a home or in the trunk or locked glove box in the person’s vehicle. There’s a series of fines and other measures for violators, including mandatory referral to youth services bureaus for 2nd-time juvenile offenders.
Also beginning Thursday, the odor of cannabis or burnt cannabis shall not constitute probable cause or a reasonable suspicion for police to stop and/or search any person or their vehicle. However, officers may test for impairment if there’s reasonable suspicion the driver and/or passenger are under the influence of marijuana.
The Police Officer Standards and Training Council issued a 10-page training bulletin last week to local police chiefs, resident state troopers, training officers and others, outlining the changes in the complicated new law.
Among other things, the bulletin highlights how cannabis and hemp will now be included with tobacco when it comes to locations where smoking is not allowed, ranging from restaurants to partially enclosed bus shelters. The use of cannabis is also prohibited on state lands and waters that are managed by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. ___
A new law that takes effect Thursday will expand access to birth certificates for adoptees age 18 and older, as well as their adult children or adult grandchildren. Until now, the law provided such access to those adoptees whose adoptions were finalized on or after Oct. 1, 1983. That’s the date when the state adoption form was changed and a clause added, warning that birth parents’ identities could be disclosed.
The new law also transfers the responsibility of issuing the original birth certificate from the state Department of Public Health to municipalities. ___
A new Commission on the Disparate Impact of COVID-19, under the auspices of the General Assembly, will officially be established July 1. Among other things, the group will analyze and identify the cause of any disparate impact of the pandemic on different racial, gender and socioeconomic groups in Connecticut.
The concept was embraced by the state’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, which noted in written testimony that many women and communities of color were devastated by the pandemic, both economically and physically.
The commission, which is scheduled to hold its first meeting by Sept. 1, must present its finding and recommendations to lawmakers and the governor Jan. 1 or sooner. The group expires on June 20, 2023. ___
Beginning Thursday, all Connecticut colleges and universities will need to include the number of accidents that occurred on property they control or own that resulted in a serious physical injury or death in its annual “uniform campus crime and safety incident report.” This new mandate includes campuses or dormitories in other countries that a school owns or controls for international studies programs. ___
A provision in the wide-ranging 2000 police reform bill takes effect Thursday. It allows civil lawsuits against officers by individuals or a class of individuals who’ve had their constitutional rights violated by police. The act establishes a civil cause of action if an officer’s actions are deemed “malicious, wanton or willful,” eliminating governmental immunity as a defense. ___
Beginning Thursday, limited pregnancy centers in Connecticut will be prohibited from using “deceptive advertising” about the pregnancy-related services they provide. The centers are defined as not directly providing abortions or emergency contraception or providing referrals for such services.