A bill to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana has passed another key legislative the committee. It’s the second committee to pass a legal marijuana bill in the past two weeks.
Two weeks ago, a bill to license legal marijuana sellers passed the General Law Committee. On Monday, another bill to clear the way for legal marijuana passed the Judiciary Committee 21 to 19.
During the debate before the vote, Rep. Doug Dubitsky (R-Canterbury) said, “We’ve had virtually every medical person who’s come to testify before us say this stuff is not good, especially for children.”
But the health aspect of cannabis use is not being considered.
The bill before this committee on Monday includes language that is aimed at righting what many consider to be a past wrong. It would allow people convicted in the past of possession of 1.5 ounces or less of marijuana to petition the Superior Court to have their criminal record removed, in legal language, expunged. In other words, it would disappear forever.
Judiciary co-chair Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven) said, “Everybody talks about the tax money, some of this is about public policy we’ve chosen to do in the past and fixing that public policy through this piece of legislation.”
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Legislators from the urban areas in the state have made it clear that they will not vote for legalizing recreational marijuana when the final vote comes unless this provision is included.
Judiciary Committee member Sen. Doug McCrory (D-Hartford) added, “If we’re going to move forward with any type of legalization of cannabis, expungement of records has to be the first stepping stone in that process.”
But many lawmakers that are completely opposed to legalizing cannabis said they are sympathetic to the idea of scrubbing criminal records for possession of small amounts.
House Minority Leader Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford) said, “The expungement issue is really a separate issue from the legalization piece. We shouldn’t be punishing people who might have had a marijuana conviction. We should be looking at that to make sure that they could recover in society and become employed.”
The third step in this process will come before another committee; The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee would have to decide what the tax rate on legal marijuana would be. That would likely happen later this month.