HARTFORD, CT —Before COVID-19, one of the big pushes at the state Capitol was the legalization and sale of cannabis and a new study by the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis says by authorizing it, the state could collect nearly $1 billion in tax revenue within five years.

The report found that over the first five years of sales, legalization will also bring $784 to $952 million in new tax revenue for the state and $71 million in cannabis taxes for municipalities. In a single year — the fifth year of sales — legalization would result in $188 to $223 million in cannabis tax revenue for the state and $21.4 million for municipalities.

UConn Economist Fred Carstensen, who authored the report, said that legalization will benefit Connecticut at a time when it needs the revenue. It’s a sentiment shared by many lawmakers who have been pushing both for legalization of marijuana and sports betting.

“Connecticut residents overwhelmingly support legalization because it will bring needed public health and public safety regulation to an illegal, underground industry in our state,” Rep. Josh Elliott, D-Hamden, said. “The time to act is now in order to maximize our potential to grow jobs and our economy at a time when it is most needed.”

In addition to revenues, legalization is expected to increase employment opportunities.

The study found legalization could add more than 16,000 jobs to Connecticut’s economy in five years.

“No matter which tax regime the state chooses and no matter how it spends the new revenues, legalization will generate significant job creation, strong growth in GDP and hundreds of millions in new tax revenues,” Carstensen wrote. “In the face of the challenge of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, legalization offers a path to strong recovery.”

Gov. Ned Lamont proposed his own legislation earlier this year to legalize cannabis.

“Cannabis currently, and will be increasingly, available to residents of Connecticut,” Lamont testified. “While I do not believe that cannabis is a riskless drug, I do believe our state is better off developing a well-regulated market for cannabis that continues to rely on the black market.”

No cannabis legalization bill has ever made it to the floor of the Connecticut House or Senate, but even opponents of legalization felt 2020 would be a tough fight for them because of the governor’s support.

The report was funded by the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit which advocates for legalization.