HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The General Assembly’s Judicial Committee is holding a hearing on a bill that would reduce penalties for people convicted of selling marijuana. Now that recreational cannabis is legal, some want old convictions and current sentences changed.
Licensed stores have already made millions of dollars in the seven weeks recreational-use cannabis has been legal in Connecticut.
“Yet, there are still Connecticut residents who remain incarcerated, facing pending prosecutions, or serving terms of supervision for the exact same activity,” said Sarah Gersten, executive director of the Last Prisoner Project.
Gersten spoke alongside fellow activists and several politicians backing a bill to change that.
“We cannot stand around while we have the state of Connecticut making millions of dollars off the profits from legal cannabis in the state of Connecticut while our friends and family suffer,” said Jessica Capitan, a Community Organizer with CT Cannawarriors.
The state has already cleared the records of thousands of people with minor cannabis convictions, but those convicted of manufacturing and selling more significant amounts are still in prison. Stores are now selling those more significant amounts every day.
“How much it was, when it was, how many police it took, any cannabis-related crime, there should be no one incarcerated for as we get rich on it and as big business continues to grow,” said State Rep. Anthony Nolan (D-New London).
Luis Vega runs a cannabis business called Nautilus Botanicals in Bridgeport. He was selling cannabis before legalization, too.
“I was previously arrested, convicted, and incarcerated for the cultivation and sale of cannabis,” Vega said.
Vega is backing this bill because it would change cannabis industry hiring restrictions. He says state law prevents him from hiring people with the same record he has.
“I, realistically, want to interview them and see where I can put them in my business,” Vegas said. “Who else better to sell weed than a guy who was selling weed?”
Even if HB-6787 does pass, the effort still faces a big challenge. Advocates said the state is unwilling or unable to differentiate which prisoners are locked up for cannabis offenses. So, there’s no way to tell who exactly, or how many, this bill would be helping.