HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — State lawmakers began what’s expected to be an intense debate over the next several days on whether or not Connecticut should join the growing list of states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use on Thursday.
The state has a very successful medical marijuana law and on Thursday the committee that wrote most of that legislation began hearing the pros and cons of developing a recreational marijuana code.
It was the first of three major hearings before three major legislative committees developing proposed laws to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for recreational use for adults over age 21.
Rep. Josh Elliot (D-Hamden) introduced the bill last year and notes that, “Massachusetts is going to have their legal sales start in June.”
Advocates say that Connecticut residents will soon be able to make the short trip to Massachusetts and bring back legal marijuana with no repercussions, because it’s been decriminalized here.
“All that’s happening is that marijuana has become defacto legalized in Connecticut, but now we’re losing out on the revenue,” added Elliot.
Estimates on how much state revenue can be raised through taxation of recreational marijuana vary, but opponents say that’s no reason to do this.
Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford) is the Deputy Minorty Leader in the House and said, “the biggest issue that we hear is the increase of driving under the influence and how we test somebody for marijuana intoxication when they’re driving.”
There is no known effective test to measure marijuana intoxication, making the legalization tough for law enforcement. That’s obviously a concern for the General Law committee. It’s the first stop for this proposal in the legislative process and it is not strictly a Democrat versus Republican issue.
“I think mainly it’s about, for me, personal liberty and freedom. Number two; it’s all around us,” said committee member Rep. Melissa Ziobron (R-East Haddam).
Governor Dannel Malloy said he’ll make his decision when and if the legislature puts a bill on his desk.
“I’m certainly aware of the conversations, I read all of that. I’m not going to personally endorse the use of marijuana, except for medical purposes,” said Malloy.
The next stop for the recreational marijuana bill is before the Judiciary Committee on Monday followed by the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. That committee will ponder just how much revenue legal marijuana would bring into the state.