One day before the first adult-use marijuana shops are set to open in Connecticut, state officials launched a web portal to facilitate more cannabis record sealing after automatically processing relief for tens of thousands of people at the beginning of the year.
The governor, lieutenant governor and state lawmakers gathered at the Reentry Welcome Center in Hartford on Monday to tout the erasure of nearly 43,000 marijuana records this month, which was made possible as part of the legalization law that was enacted in 2021.
Officials took the opportunity to announce the launch of the “Clean Slate and Cannabis Erasure” online portal. The resource allows people to check on the status of records from between January 1, 2000 and September 30, 2015 to see if they were automatically sealed, and provides information about how individuals can submit petitions for relief for additional eligible cases.
“The petition is for particular older offenses that are not capable of being erased under electronic systems,” Marc Pelka, undersecretary of the state Office of Policy and Management, said. He added that the website makes the process “pretty straightforward” for those whose records weren’t automatically sealed.
Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said that it’s been an “honor trying to do everything we can to take barriers out of the way” for those with prior cannabis convictions. Beyond righting the wrongs of criminalization, he said that record sealing is an essential part of strengthening Connecticut’s economy by ensuring that a person’s marijuana case doesn’t prevent them from participating in the workforce.
“If you believe in public safety, if you believe in hope, if you believe in criminal justice, believe in given people that second chance, erasure of this—clean slate—makes a difference,” he said.
Under a new state law that went into effect on January 1, our administration has marked 43,754 low-level cannabis convictions as erased.
An old conviction for possession should not hold someone back from pursuing their career, housing, professional, and educational aspirations. pic.twitter.com/sKjC0cOaFk
— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) January 9, 2023
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (D) said that “this is a day to celebrate new opportunities for people across our state—and the social equity impact of this is huge.”
“It’s a first step. But to have tens of thousands of people have their criminal records erased is huge, because it means that those families now have many more opportunities,” she said. “It is unacceptable that people of color, Black people who comprise 10 percent of our population, have 35 percent of those erasures. This is a small step but an important step.”
It’s unclear how many more people might be able to have their records cleared via petition because their records were too old to automatically process, but officials say that the first step is to check the portal to determine the status of their case. For those with eligible cases, the site allows them to download required forms, and it also guides people through the petitioning process, which must be handled in the court of jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, the governor’s office has also pointed out that people with a wider range of minor convictions on their records will be able to petition courts for record-sealing under separate reform legislation that has been enacted.
Monday’s portal announcement comes less than 24 hours before recreational marijuana sales start in Connecticut. Existing medical cannabis dispensaries that obtained hybrid licenses were notified by regulators last month that they’d soon be able to serve the adult-use market.
Six of the state’s existing dispensaries, with a total of nine locations, met the requirements to obtain hybrid retailer licenses. And all of the state’s current medical cannabis producers will be able to supply both markets.
Adults are able to buy up to one-fourth of an ounce of cannabis flower or its equivalent per transaction. Medical marijuana patients are able to buy up to five ounces per month.
Ahead of the official launch, Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) officials issued an advisory to medical cannabis patients, encouraging them to stock up in order to “avoid long lines and traffic that may develop around hybrid retailers.”
The governor reiterated on Monday that he doesn’t know “what the demand is going to be tomorrow,” so for medical cannabis patients, this is an “opportunity to get what you need now.”
It remains to be seen if the governor will participate in the legal marketplace, at least for now.
Before signing the bill to create a regulated cannabis industry, Lamont was asked in 2021 if he’d partake himself when marijuana was officially legal—and he didn’t rule it out, saying “not right now, but we’ll see.”
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Meanwhile, the governor also signed a large-scale budget bill last year that includes provisions to set the state up to provide certain patients with access to psychedelic-assisted treatment using substances like MDMA and psilocybin.
On Monday, state Rep. David Michel (D) introduced a separate placeholder psychedelics bill, describing his intent to file formal legislation to legalize “the use of psilocybin for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, including, but not limited to, the provision of physical, mental or behavioral health care.”
Connecticut isn’t the only state where marijuana sales are getting started in the region.
New York’s first legal adult-use marijuana sales got underway late last month, with the inaugural purchase being made by the state’s top cannabis regulator. Broader sales to the general public began later in the afternoon at the symbolic time of 4:20 PM.
Also, Rhode Island’s first recreational cannabis sales started at the beginning of December.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.