Legal recreational marijuana sales start in Connecticut
MONTVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s first round of recreational cannabis sales for adults 21 and older began Tuesday at seven existing medical marijuana establishments across the state, less than two years after Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation making Connecticut the latest state to legalize retail sales.
As many as 40 dispensaries, along with dozens of other cannabis-related businesses, are expected to eventually open in Connecticut by the end of this year.
“Today is historic, but the real story is about the benefits to come that will transform lives and communities,” Adam Wood, president of the Connecticut Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. He estimates the new industry will create more than 10,000 jobs over the next couple of years and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue that will help benefit communities most impacted by the war on drugs.
Lamont, a Democrat, said Tuesday that one of the goals of the legislation that legalized recreational marijuana was to create a regulated, safer product for consumers. Another part of the law allows convictions for low-level marijuana crimes to be erased, many automatically. Nearly 44,000 such convictions have been erased since the start of the new year, officials said.
“Today marks a turning point in the injustices caused by the war on drugs, most notably now that there is a legal alternative to the dangerous, unregulated, underground market for cannabis sales,” Lamont said in a statement.
Recreational sales were allowed to begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. State-approved shops in Branford, Meriden, Montville, New Haven, Newington, Stamford and Willimantic were expected to open their doors to the general public on the first day. Two other approved dispensaries, in Danbury and Torrington, will open at a later date.
In Montville, local state lawmakers and the mayor turned out for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at The Botanist. A steady stream of medical marijuana patients stopped by to pick up their items before recreational sales began. Workers inside a heated tent folded free T-shirts and prepared to help customers place orders in kiosks.
Laura Bass-Wright, 60, of Norwich, was the first customer in line in Montville. She said she has suffered with chronic pain since 2011 and has been a medical marijuana customer. She said she was glad recreational sales are now legal, but had some concerns.
“I do worry about the young people because they don’t know how to handle it and they will be driving stoned, and it’s going to be very hard for police to figure out what’s what,” she said.
Bass-Wright added that she didn’t intend on being the first in line but was happy that she was. She was given a bag of goodies, including a $250 vaporizer.
It’s unclear whether the novelty of legalized marijuana has worn off a bit for Connecticut consumers, considering retail sales began in 2018 in neighboring Massachusetts and last month in neighboring Rhode Island and New York.
Twenty-one states have legalized recreational marijuana for adults over the past decade, even though it remains illegal under federal law. Since voters approved legalization in Maryland and Missouri in November, marijuana advocates have pressed forward with similar efforts elsewhere in the U.S., including in Ohio and Oklahoma.
As of Feb. 3, 2022, 37 states, three territories and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of cannabis products, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Connecticut’s “hybrid” medical and recreational cannabis retail shops prepared for large crowds Tuesday. At The Botanist in Montville, extra staff will be in place and a shuttle service will bring customers from satellite parking lots.
Kate Nelson, senior vice president of the Midwest and Northwest regions for Acreage Holdings, which owns The Botanist brand, said the Montville location sees about 200 to 300 medical marijuana customers daily. She predicted there will be a 150% uptick in sales during the first week of recreational sales, but acknowledged that will likely level off.
The company’s second location in Connecticut, located in Danbury, is expected to open in the next few weeks after local approvals are finalized.
“I think even before the 40 operators come online, you’ll start to see less of that excitement of something new and more so of kind of what the status quo will become,” Nelson said. “We’re in an area now in the country where there’s other adult-use states nearby. So it’s really going to be a focus of ours, in the state of Connecticut specifically, to make sure that this adult-use program has the product that it needs to have and we can support the industry … to make sure Connecticut sets themselves apart from other competing markets.”
Initial sales in Connecticut will be limited to one-quarter of an ounce (7 grams) of cannabis flower or its equivalent, in an effort to ensure there will be enough supply for medical marijuana patients. Different items can be purchased together to make up the one-quarter ounce. The state’s Department of Consumer Protection plans to watch retail sales and manufacturing supplies closely to determine when that amount can eventually be increased.
Susan Haigh, The Associated Press
A look at Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s new cabinet
Premier Danielle Smith introduced her cabinet Friday, the second one since taking over as United Conservative Party leader in October. Here are the changes at a glance:
Second in command: Mike Ellis retains his Public Safety and Emergency Services portfolio but is also now deputy premier.
Big promotions: Mickey Amery moves from Children’s Services to Justice; Nate Horner moves from Agriculture and Irrigation to Finance; Adriana LaGrange already had a heavyweight title in Education but now takes on enormous responsibilities in Health.
New faces: RJ Sigurdson joins cabinet for the first time in Agriculture and Irrigation; Searle Turton is new in Children and Family Services; Dan Williams gets his first cabinet seat in Mental Health and Addiction.
Returning vets: Jason Nixon, the environment minister and government house leader under former premier Jason Kenney, is back in cabinet handling the Seniors, Community and Social Services post. Ric McIver, dropped from Smith’s first cabinet, returns in his old job of Municipal Affairs. Muhammad Yaseen, a former associate minister of immigration, now has full cabinet rank as minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism; Tanya Fir, former economic development minster under Kenney, is back in Arts, Culture and Status of Women portfolio.
Same faces, new jobs: Rebecca Schulz (Environment and Protected Areas), Brian Jean (Energy and Minerals), Nathan Neudorf (Affordability and Utilities), Joseph Schow (Tourism and Sport), Demetrios Nicolaides (Education), Rajan Sawhney (Advanced Education), Matt Jones (Jobs, Economy and Trade), Peter Guthrie (Infrastructure).
Same faces, same jobs: Nate Glubish (Technology and Innovation), Dale Nally (Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction), Devin Dreeshen (Transportation and Economic Corridors), Todd Loewen (Forestry and Parks).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2023.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith shuffles familiar faces into new cabinet roles
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith introduced her new cabinet Friday, shuffling familiar faces, tinkering with some titles, keeping former leadership rivals close while welcoming back two exiled political veterans.
Smith’s 25-member team – down from 27 in her first cabinet last fall – were sworn in during a ceremony at Government House.
“I am so pleased to have this team working with me to deliver on the promises we made to Albertans during the election,” Smith said in a news release.
“These are not just our government’s priorities, they are Albertans’ priorities. The next four years start today, and I can’t wait to get back to work with each of my cabinet colleagues.”
Nate Horner has been tapped to lead Finance, Mickey Amery takes over in Justice and Adriana LaGrange moves to Health from her old job in Education.
Brian Jean, Rajan Sawhney, Todd Loewen and Rebecca Schulz — all contenders in the United Conservative Party leadership — return to Smith’s cabinet table.
Jean will head up Energy and Minerals, Sawhney takes over Advanced Education and Schulz is to lead Environment and Protected Areas.
Loewen returns in the newly renamed Forestry and Parks job.
Smith lost a lot of cabinet experience when veteran ministers retired or were defeated in last month’s election. Two returning stalwarts, Jason Nixon and Ric McIver, were dropped from Smith’s original cabinet Oct. 24 but are back at the table.
Nixon is in charge of Seniors, Community and Social Services. He was the top lieutenant to former premier Jason Kenney, serving as government house leader and Environment minister. After Kenney quit and Smith took over, Nixon was still viewed in caucus as part of the discredited Kenney administration and was moved to the backbenches.
McIver, with a decade of experience in the legislature under multiple portfolios, is back in his old job of Municipal Affairs.
Other cabinet ministers are also back with big promotions.
Amery, with no cabinet experience until Smith appointed him Children’s Services minister last year, takes a big leap forward to Justice.
One of three lawyers in Smith’s 48-member caucus, Amery inherits a controversial portfolio. He is the fifth person to hold the job in the last four years under the UCP.
One former UCP justice minister, Kaycee Madu, was found to have tried to interfere in the administration of justice by calling up Edmonton’s police chief to complain about a traffic ticket.
Last month, the province’s ethics commissioner concluded Smith sought to undermine the rule of law by pressuring Amery’s predecessor, Tyler Shandro, to drop a criminal case against a protester at a U.S. border blockade.
LaGrange’s Health job is viewed as critical, as Smith pledged to reduce wait times for emergency care and surgeries and to make changes to ensure more Albertans can see a family doctor.
Horner, who earned plaudits for his work in Agriculture and Irrigation, will have to navigate keeping Alberta’s books balanced while also finding money to pay for a $1-billion-a-year tax reduction pledge promised by Smith.
Demetrios Nicolaides effectively switches classrooms, moving from Advanced Education to Education.
Matt Jones moves from Affordability and Utilities to the new Jobs, Economy and Trade.
Rick Wilson returns as Indigenous Relations minister. With Nicolaides and LaGrange switching portfolios, he is the only minister named in Kenney’s original 2019 cabinet to be in the same job four years later.
Mike Ellis has emerged as a key lieutenant to Smith. The former Calgary police officer returns in the Public Safety and Emergency Services portfolio but is also her deputy premier. He is expected to play a pivotal role in Smith’s promised legislation to force addicts into treatment as a last resort.
Devin Dreeshen stays in place as minister for Transportation and Economic Corridors.
Calgary member Tanya Fir’s roller-coaster political career is back on the upswing, heading to the newly renamed Arts, Culture and Status of Women ministry.
Fir was part of the Kenney’s original cabinet as Economic Development minister, but was dropped from cabinet, brought back in as a Jobs minister only to be dropped by Smith in October.
The Status of Women portfolio is also back on the rise after falling from a cabinet portfolio to an associate ministry under Kenney, then out of cabinet altogether under Smith.
Smith has said because the NDP took all 20 Edmonton seats in the election, she will rely more on cabinet ministers Nate Glubish, Dale Nally and Searle Turton, who represent constituencies near the capital.
Glubish remains in Technology and Innovation and Nally stays as minister for Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction.
Turton, a second-term member, gets his first cabinet job in the renamed Children and Family Services ministry.
Nathan Neudorf is no longer deputy premier or Infrastructure minister, taking over Affordability and Utilities.
Peter Guthrie moves from Energy to Infrastructure.
Joseph Schow returns as government house leader and as minister for the new Tourism and Sport position.
Calgary backbencher Muhammad Yaseen, previously an associate immigration minister under Kenney, attains full cabinet rank as minister for Immigration and Multiculturalism.
Dan Williams, a second-term MLA, gets his first shot in cabinet with Mental Health and Addiction.
RJ Sigurdson gets his first cabinet assignment, taking over from Horner in Agriculture and Irrigation.
The job titles remain the same for the most part with some slight revisions. Loewen, for example, loses the Tourism responsibility from his old job.
The Jobs, Economy and Northern Development portfolio has dropped Northern Development and will add in Trade responsibilities instead.
The Seniors title, dropped last fall by Smith, returns in Nixon’s new job.
The Skilled Trades and Professions portfolio has been dropped all together.
There is still no dedicated Labour ministry.
The government is set to return to the house in October and faces a large 38-member Opposition NDP that, along with sweeping Edmonton, took a big bite out of UCP support in Calgary.
The NDP now represents more than half the seats in Calgary.
Smith’s caucus will also be further reduced.
While the UCP won 49 seats in the election, Smith said newly elected Lacombe-Ponoka member Jennifer Johnson is not welcome in caucus given her public comments late last year comparing transgender students to feces in cookie dough. Johnson will sit as an Independent.
UCP member Nathan Cooper is expected to return as Speaker, meaning Smith’s team will have an even slimmer majority in the 87-seat legislature.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2023.
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