Democrats in the Connecticut House met for a large portion of the day in their first issues meeting of the new General Assembly session on Monday. Among the top issues for discussion; a unified bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Connecticut.
“If we pass this at the end of the session in June and the Governor signs it and we use the existing infrastructure that we have for medical marijuana with our distributors and our growers already in place, I feel like we could have sales by the end of the year,” said Rep. Mike D’Agostino (D-Hamden), the co-chair of the General Law Committee. That’s the committee likely to have the first public hearing on marijuana later in the month.
D’Agostino also said that all of the state’s medical marijuana growers have said they are ready to expand into recreational sales. Another source added that the medical marijuana growers are currently only operating at about 40 percent of their potential capacity. Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) said, “We want it to mirror our highly successful and highly securitized medical marijuana system.”
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The leader in the State Senate, Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) added there is no doubt it would be a money maker for the state. He said, “Depends on what tax rate you set. If we go the Colorado route, I think they have the most agressive tax schedule of the states that have legalized, it could very well come close to $100 million a year for us.”
The bill that’s being drafted would also erase many marijuana-related convictions from the past and could potentially cause the release of those still serving sentences.
“It is the social justice piece of the bill that is so critical to ensure that when we move forward we actually address those that have been incarcerated because of marijuana-related crimes,” stated longtime advocate Rep. Juan Candelaria (D-New Haven), who also is a member of the General Law Committee.
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But Deputy Minority Leader Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford) is a longtime opponent of legalization and said, “The societal impacts to legalizing marijuana we’ll continue to see all the negative impacts that have occurred in Colorado and other states that’s very persuasive on why we shouldn’t be doing it here.”
But advocates for legalization say studies from Colorado indicate there is less marijuana use among young people and there has been less opioid abuse in Colorado.