CT faith leaders call on state lawmakers to oppose legalization of recreational marijuana, advocate for decriminalization

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — As lawmakers continue to consider bills aimed at recreational marijuana legalization in Connecticut, hundreds of Connecticut faith leaders are joining together to speak out against the plan Monday.

Nearly a dozen faith leaders spoke out urging state lawmakers and Governor Ned Lamont to oppose legalizing weed in Connecticut. Eleven states and the District of Columbia allow recreational marijuana.

Governor Lamont has intimated that he would support the bill before the legislature.

Reverend Abraham Hernandez, the Connecticut Director of the National Hispanic Clergy Leaders Conference, told News 8 Monday, “When our legislators put profits over people we are sliding down a very slippery slope.”

Faith leaders representing hundreds of Hispanic, Catholic, Pentecostal, Islamic, Baptist, and Methodist Churches oppose legalizing weed in Connecticut.

Senior Pastor William McCullough from the Russell Temple CME says in Bridgeport the education gap is massive. And between not having enough resources and increased crime, his community is struggling.

“Young men and women are struggling to find decent jobs to support their families. And you want to legalize marijuana!?”

The faith community leaders say it’s not about social justice. Yes, they want criminal records erased.
But they don’t want marijuana to be placed at the political altar.

The Reverend Carl McCluster from the Shiloh Baptist Church in Bridgeport says state lawmakers and the governor have been ignoring their cries for record expungement for years.

“To hold it over their head unless you approve legalization – we’re not going to approve that – I think that is immoral.”

Archbishop Leroy Bailey, The First Cathedral in Bloomfield says bottom line, it’s about money.

“That’s all we are concerned about when we need to be concerned about our values and our kids.”

The Catholic Archbishop says it’s about the well-being of people, adding the State Medical Society agrees.

Archbishop Leonard Blair, who oversees the Hartford Diocese and hundreds of Catholic churches in the state, points to medical risks with recreational marijuana.

“There’s a risk of heart and lung disease. A rise in the chance of stroke and even a risk chances for paranoia and psychosis.”

A bill before state lawmakers would erase criminal records related to minor pot offenses. It would also allow those living in inner cities to qualify for certificates of operation first. A measure toward equity. But faith leaders say the Black and brown community will be persecuted again if lawmakers and the governor don’t refuse to pass a law legalizing marijuana.

Sr. Pastor William McCullough, “If they don’t do that, they will show how racist our state is and help continue to do the things that have kept us as a people from advancing in our communities.”

A Gallup poll conducted in October of 2020 found 68 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing weed. That’s up from 12 percent back in 1969 about 52 years ago when the numbers were first tracked.

State lawmakers are still negotiating the bill to make cannabis legal in Connecticut.

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