Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo
Gov. Ned Lamont (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT — It wasn’t until the very end of Gov. Ned Lamont’s address to the General Assembly about his two-year budget submitted Wednesday that there was any mention of legalizing recreational marijuana.

But there it was – in black and white.

“Legalizing recreational marijuana like our neighbors will make for a safer market that will be carefully regulated and taxed,” Lamont said.

He didn’t say anything more but that one sentence is all the proponents of legalization were hoping to hear.

Before Lamont’s speech, during a press briefing Wednesday morning, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw was asked why the budget package and the subsequent briefing didn’t include any mention of pot legalization.

Lamont, more than once, said he was in favor of legalization in his successful campaign for governor last year.

“The governor feels there are ongoing discussions about marijuana,” McCaw said. “And he would like to continue that discussion.”

McCaw noted that there is a $1.5 billion deficit in the current budget and money has been found somewhere to bridge that gap – inferring that marijuana legalization is one of the strategies that could be employed.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated last year that Connecticut could bring in $45.4 million to $104.6 million a year if it legalizes marijuana in the same way it’s been done in Massachusetts or Colorado.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz and House Majority Leader Matt Ritter said legalizing marijuana will be one of the items they will need to negotiate.

Ritter said three legislative committees have cognizance over marijuana.

“It’s complicated,” Ritter said.

Both declined to say what the chances are Connecticut passes legislation and realizes revenue from taxing marijuana.

Massachusetts recently became the seventh state in the nation to establish a regulated cannabis market for adults. A total of nine states have enacted laws to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use. Lawmakers in Vermont and voters in Washington, D.C. adopted laws making marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, but not commercial production or sales. In Maine, sales are expected to begin in the fall.

Several bills legalizing recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21 have been proposed in the General Assembly this year. Proponents are hoping that this year may finally be the year a bill passes since Democrats are firmly in control of both the House and Senate.