The governor of Connecticut announced on Tuesday that the state will be automatically clearing records of low-level marijuana records for thousands of people at the beginning of the new year.
Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said that the state has identified about 44,000 eligible possession cases that will be processed automatically at the beginning of the year under a provision of the cannabis legalization bill he signed last year.
Meanwhile, his office said that people with a wider range of minor convictions on their records will be able to petition courts for record-sealing under separate reform legislation will that was enacted this year. The law created a streamlined “Clean Slate” clemency program that’s expected to be fully implemented in the second half of next year.
“On January 1, thousands of people in Connecticut will have low-level cannabis convictions automatically erased due to the cannabis legalization bill we enacted last year,” Lamont said in a press release.
“Especially as Connecticut employers seek to fill hundreds of thousands of job openings, an old conviction for low-level cannabis possession should not hold someone back from pursuing their career, housing, professional, and educational aspirations,” he said.
The announcement comes as the first adult-use marijuana retailers are nearing towards opening in Connecticut, a development that Lamont previewed over the summer.
And while the press release from the governor’s office explains that this clemency action is related to the 2021 legalization bill, it also comes weeks after President Joe Biden issued a mass cannabis pardon for people with federal possession offenses and urged governors to provide state-level relief.
Late last month, Biden cheered Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s (D) recent move to grant tens of thousands of marijuana pardons and said that other states should “follow Oregon’s example.” Last week, Brown described cannabis clemency as “very much a racial justice issue.”
Governors from states across the U.S. have given mixed responses about their plans for marijuana clemency in light of the president’s call to action, with some pledging to analyze their options and others noting that their authority is limited.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) came out in support of marijuana decriminalization in October, saying it’s time to “end the stigma” and announcing steps he’s taken to explore his options for independently granting relief to people with existing convictions.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D), meanwhile, signed two marijuana-related executive orders last month: one to protect patients who meet certain criteria and possess medical cannabis legally obtained from dispensaries in other states, and another to regulate the sale of delta-8 THC products.
The medical cannabis move is based on the governor’s clemency powers.
Lamont, for his part, has long supported legalization and celebrated the policy change that’s being actively implemented. For example, he shared a clip of a country song in June that including lyrics saying that one great thing about Connecticut is that it’s “cool to smoke some pot” since the governor signed the legalization bill.
Before signing the reform legislation, Lamont was asked if he’d partake himself when marijuana was officially legal—and he didn’t rule it out, saying “not right now, but we’ll see.”
Meanwhile, the governor also signed a large-scale budget bill in May that includes provisions to set the state up to provide certain patients with access to psychedelic-assisted treatment using substances like MDMA and psilocybin.