Marijuana legalization outlook: CT close on adult use, Louisiana OKs smokable flower

(This story has been updated with comment from Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves.)

Key Connecticut lawmakers reached an agreement on a measure to legalize an adult-use market that MJBizDaily projects potentially could reach $725 million a year.

But it’s uncertain the bill will pass before a legislative deadline Wednesday. If not, Gov. Ned Lamont is expected to call a special session.

Louisiana lawmakers legalized smokable flower, which could transform a market that has been heavily restrictive and expensive for patients.

In Mississippi, lawmakers discussed medical marijuana legalization after the state’s highest court voided a voter-approved initiative. But nothing will happen this year unless Gov. Tate Reeves calls a special session.

Connecticut

Connecticut lawmakers and Gov. Lamont struck a compromise on a recreational marijuana legalization bill in which retail sales reportedly could begin in late spring of 2022.

MJBizDaily earlier this year projected that a Connecticut adult-use market could generate $250 million in sales in the first full year and $725 million in the fourth year.

But the state’s House of Representatives and Senate still must pass the measure, Senate Bill 1118, by Wednesday’s legislative deadline, and opponents might engage in a filibuster to thwart passage, the Hartford Courant reported.

That could lead to the issue being pushed to a special session called by Lamont this summer.

The compromise agreement would give social equity applicants priority status in obtaining cultivation and retail licenses, including micro-grower licenses.

Social equity applicants would need to have mostly grown up in or lived for five of the past 10 years in a “disproportionately impacted area,” as defined by a jobless rate above 10% or a historically high drug conviction rate.

Municipalities would be limited to one marijuana retailer and one micro-cultivator per 25,000 residents until July 1, 2024.

Under the agreement, local jurisdictions could prohibit retail sales through zoning ordinances, but residents could petition for a local referendum on the issue. Municipalities that allow recreational marijuana sales would collect a sales tax of 3%.

Product sales also would be subject to the state sales tax of 6.35%, plus:

  • 0.625 cents per milligram of total THC for plant material.
  • 2.75 cents per milligram of total THC for edibles.
  • 0.9 cents per milligram of total THC for other marijuana products.

House Speaker Matt Ritter told reporters Saturday that he believes the measure can pass.

“From my viewpoint, we’re in that ballpark where it can happen,” he said. “So, I think, throw it on the board (for a vote) and see what happens,” Ritter said.

One key compromise would allow home grow for adults older than 21.

The bill does not specify a market launch date, but spring 2022 would give state regulators time to develop rules and issue licenses.

Louisiana

The state’s medical cannabis program has struggled under the weight of heavy restrictions, low patient numbers, high prices and only two cultivators and nine dispensaries statewide.

But the program should get a big boost after the Legislature last week legalized smokable flower beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

Smokable flower accounts for roughly 50% of sales in some markets and will likely be particularly attractive to patients in Louisiana, given the pent-up demand for more affordable products.

Patients also will be allowed generous purchase limits of up to 2½ ounces of smokable marijuana every 14 days, according to the measure, House Bill 391.

The 2021 MJBizFactbook projects that Louisiana’s medical marijuana market will reach $25 million to $30 million in sales this year.

Mississippi

Senate lawmakers held a public hearing last week on potential medical marijuana legalization, but lawmakers can’t pass a bill this year unless the governor calls a special session.

Reeves, a Republican, told Biloxi TV station WLOX over the weekend it is “imperative” that a medical marijuana law be passed to support the will of the voters.

But the governor stopped short of saying whether he would call a special session this year to do so.

The legislative hearing indicated that there is a contingent of people who would like to see a weaker program than detailed in the voter-approved initiative that was recently voided by the state Supreme Court, the Clarion Ledger in Jackson reported.

The initiative was business friendly, including no license caps.

Based on last week’s hearing, some would like to see municipalities have the ability to opt out of an MMJ program, according to the Clarion Ledger.

In addition, there is some opposition to a proposed regulation that would have set generous purchasing limits of up to 2½ ounces per patient every 14 days.

Jeff Smith can be reached at jeff.smith@mjbizdaily.com.