Editorial: From legal pot to sports betting, CT’s newest laws come with a lot of fine print

Marijuana plants

Marijuana plants

Erin Hooley / TNS

Some of the new Connecticut laws taking effect Oct. 1 serve as evidence that transformative changes in the state are taking place despite the COVID-19 pandemic dominating the attention of lawmakers and residents alike for the past 18 months.

Some, such as the legalization of recreational marijuana, got a boost from the state’s simple need to create new revenue streams. Others, like barring employers from asking job applicants their age, seem so practical as to be decades overdue in execution. The same goes for new laws that expand rules for when drivers must yield to pedestrians.

These laws will affect some Connecticut residents more than others, but they will impact all lives. They range in spirit from changing the landscape of recreational habits to striving toward a stricter balance of personal justice.

As they fall into the recreational category, sports gambling and recreational marijuana have drawn most of the headlines. In both cases, potential consumers could reasonably be confused by how both are being launched.

So don’t go shopping for pot in Connecticut Oct. 1. The state is still working out details regarding regulations and licensing, thus the slow rollout.

Patients who use medicinal marijuana will be permitted to start growing their own on that date, with permission to harvest as many as six plants (12 maximum per household). Recreational users can’t follow suit until July 2023, when it will be permitted for anyone over 21.

Then there is the question of where marijuana can be smoked. Municipalities with populations higher than 50,000 are required to designate areas for pot smoking. In the absence of guidance from the General Assembly, the 17 cities and towns in that category (including Greenwich and Fairfield) have challenging decisions to make about where to put them. They could pop up like dog parks. Hopefully, some communities can establish best practices for others to follow.

One of the unabashed ironies of Connecticut finally legalizing marijuana is that is is simultaneously amping up efforts to discourage the inhaling of tobacco smoke and vape. Traditional smokers will have to read more fine print than ever. Starting Oct. 1, they cannot smoke within 25 feet of any building used by the general public. That’s not just schools and municipal centers, but restaurants and the local coffee shop.

Anyone interested in sports gambling could probably start a pool guessing the launch date. Oct. 7 has been floated as the likely Opening Day, as the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes along with the Connecticut Lottery Corp. are working to get the paperwork filed to unveil online sportsbooks on that date, in time for an NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams. But predicting timing of federal approval is not a safe bet. Meanwhile, Connecticut is anxious to steal some income from its rival as Massachusetts fumbles with betting legislation.

If the launch of these laws seems a fuzzy, it’s hardly surprising given that the pandemic has lingered. But lawmakers need to be watchdogs in the weeks ahead to be prepared to propose and debate tweaks as needed.