NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Opponents of the move to legalize recreational marijuana sales in the state are preparing themselves for what comes next.
“We need to go in eyes wide open,” said Luke Niforatos, the executive vice president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “We now have an industry that will start lobbying at the state capital in Hartford. We will be seeing a push to lower regulations.”
Recreational marijuana sales began Tuesday in Connecticut, with seven of nine dispensary locations opening their doors that morning.
But those against legalization are warning that it will create a commercial industry similar to tobacco. Smart Approaches to Marijuana successfully fought against legalizing cannabis for years, and now calls the substance too accessible.
“You’re going to hear a loud message about all the money to be made in the industry, but let’s not forget this is an addictive drug that is harming people,” Niforatos said.
The focus now shifts from elimination to regulation.
There are 18 areas in the state that have banned recreational marijuana shops. Despite that, the state estimates to exceed $73 million a year in cannabis tax revenue by 2026.
Dr. David Emmel with the Connecticut State Medical Society said that studies are scarce, and what is known about the substance is concerning.
“We felt that legalization was premature without really understanding more about the drug,” he said.
He’s concerned that legalization will usher in more trips to emergency rooms and enhanced addiction issues.
“To the state’s credit, they’ve done a great job trying to create a law that will minimize the exposure to really young children, but you can never eliminate it,” Emmel said.