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Political Momentum Gathering Behind Legalization of Recreational Marijuana in Connecticut

Is legal marijuana a possible solution to Connecticut's tax-induced exodus of residents to other states?

Connecticut residents have grown increasingly troubled by the number of residents leaving the state. This alarming trend is widespread among those who've reached retirement age and are sick of paying Connecticut tax rates, and, perhaps more ominous, is the growth of this sentiment among Connecticut's young adults who are entering the workforce. See the recent Op-Ed in the Hartford Courant: "If Connecticut adds tolls or hikes taxes, consider this 27-year-old gone".

In an effort to combat the exodus of Connecticut residents and their valuable tax dollars, Connecticut legislators introduced a series of bills that seek to make Connecticut more economically competitive with neighboring states. See "Marijuana, sports betting and debt-free college all part of Senate Democrats' plan to compete economically with nearby states" in the Hartford Courant.

Among the proposed legislation are the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, and the regulation of farming of industrial hemp. In response to the momentum behind legalization of recreational marijuana in Connecticut, and industrial hemp across the United States, UConn will begin offering a course this Spring 2019 semester entitled "Horticulture of Cannabis: From Seed to Harvest", providing experience to those interested in entering the cannabis industry, one of the first courses of its kind in the country. Gerry Berkowitz, UConn professor of plant science, states he developed the course in response to "tremendous student demand" for academic training related to the cannabis industry. Contrary to the widespread negative reaction to alternatives such as tolls or tax rate increases, there is actually a great amount of enthusiasm, particularly among young adults who will soon enter the workforce, about the up and coming cannabis industry.

The federal government has already acted to legalize industrial hemp with the passage of the Farm Bill on December 2018. But as long as marijuana containing 0.3% or greater THC content remains federally illegal, marijuana related commerce or transport across state lines is prohibited. The result is that each state must supply its own demand for marijuana, and that means Connecticut growers will not be competing with product grown in other states or countries as it is with any other crop. It is expected, given the multiple bills under consideration in the current legislative session and Governor Lamont's position in favor of legalization, that recreational marijuana will be legalized in Connecticut. If and when the law is implemented, tremendous opportunities will emerge for growers, manufacturers, and dispensaries. To that end, the law firm of Brown, Paindiris & Scott LLP represents businesses and individuals in all sectors of the legal marijuana industry, including those who wish to be ahead of the curve by preparing for the anticipated change in the law.

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