Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont on Wednesday gave his State of the State address, a time that governors lay out the year’s policy and budget priorities.
Lamont highlighted cannabis legalization, specifically saying that Connecticut is working with “our neighboring states as we consider regulating marijuana for adult use.” The legislature reacted with loud applause.
“Like it or not, legalized marijuana is just a short drive away in Massachusetts. And New York is soon to follow,” Lamont said. “And I believe that a coordinated regional regulation is our best chance to protect public health by displacing illicit sellers and replacing them with trusted providers. And it’s an opportunity to right the wrongs of a war on drugs that disproportionately impacted our minority communities.”
Lamont continued by emphasizing how easy it is for residents of neighboring northeast states to buy cannabis across a state border, where it’s legal (though crossing state lines with cannabis is illegal to do, plenty of out-of-state license plates can be seen outside Massachusetts dispensaries).
“Right now, do you realize what you can buy legally in Massachusetts, right across the border, can land you in prison here in Connecticut for up to a year? Look, we just marked the hundredth anniversary of prohibition. How did that work out?” Lamont said, in reference to alcohol, during his address, which was met with laughter.
Lamont said the “patchwork” of cannabis and vaping laws are “near impossible to enforce,” and added that last session, lawmakers worked to raise the legal age for tobacco and vaping products to 21.
“We will work with our neighboring states to make our laws safe, uniform and enforceable,” Lamont said.
Lamont took part in New York Gov. Cuomo’s Regional Cannabis Regulation and Vaping Summit in October, during which elected officials discussed how northeastern states could take a “regional approach” to legalization. Lamont said he took a fishing trip last year with Cuomo to discuss policies that could be better implemented in cooperation with other states, from cyber security to cannabis.
When Cuomo reintroduced a legalization plan by budget in early January, his office doubled down on that northeastern approach, emphasizing in a statement: “These efforts will be done in coordination with neighboring states Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf gave his 2020 State of the State address Tuesday. Notably absent from Wolf’s speech: cannabis legalization.
Wolf called on lawmakers last September to “seriously debate and consider the legalization of adult-use, recreational marijuana.”
“We now know the majority of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalization, and that includes me,” Wolf said at the time.
Wolf’s silence on cannabis, considering he has long been one of the most outspoken governors in favor of cannabis policy reform, is noteworthy for two main reasons.
First, other governors, like Lamont, have used their State of the State address or budget to lay out legalization as a policy priority. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, for example, urged cannabis legalization during her 2020 address, saying the state is “ready.”
Second, Wolf also took part in the regional cannabis summit last October.
Last September, Wolf held a news conference during which he praised Fetterman for fulfilling his promise to visit each of the state’s 67 counties on a listening tour about legalization.
“Among the many who voiced their opinions, the majority supported legalization,” Wolf said at the conference, also announcing a report based on this tour. The report concluded that 65-70% of Pennsylvania residents “approve of adult-use cannabis legalization.”