Marijuana legalization: public health & safety vs. the need for cash

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — One of the legislature’s key committees is hearing the pros and cons surrounding the legalization of marijuana for recreational use for adults over age 21. Massachusetts has given the green light to this starting in July of next year. One of the proposals being discussed at the capitol in Hartford would do the same.

A large portion of the day was devoted to questioning Yale Medical School Professor and researcher Depak D’Souza, who told lawmakers that the states that have legalized marijuana, also known as cannabis, all have higher rates of teenage use and that is a very clear public health danger.

“Using cannabis in adolescence is associated with a greater risk of the development of schizophrenia that I would argue is the most serious of mental illnesses,” said Dr. D’Souza.

Related Content: Second public hearing to legalize recreational marijuana

And the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association says law enforcement in Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2014, confirm that more teenagers are using marijuana and driving for which currently there is no effective test.

“Increase in youth using marijuana. Increase in drugged driving arrests, in other words people who are on marijuana that they cannot test at this time,” said Farmington Police Chief Paul Melanson, speaking for the association.

They also say that legalization has not put illegal marijuana dealers out of business because many people search out the lower, untaxed priced marijuana on the streets.

But advocates say the statistics have been manipulated and overstated.

“This is a question of responsible parenting. There are much greater dangers in the home and it’s a matter of, you wouldn’t leave your opioid prescription out on the table for the children, don’t leave your marijuana products out for the children,” said Becky Dansky of the Marijuana Policy Counsel.Related Content: Debate over recreational marijuana use lights up at Capitol

“Adult use of marijuana is happening every day in all 169 towns and cities in the State of Connecticut and right now the State of Connecticut is collecting zero dollars in revenue on adult use marijuana,” said John Hudak of the Washington-based Brookings Institution think tank.

And Senate Democratic Leader Martin Looney of New Haven says 80 years of prohibition has not worked. That taxing and regulating marijuana would create thousands of jobs and bring in hundreds of millions in state taxes.

The Judiciary Committee must vote up or down on this proposal by April 7. But even if they vote it down, it still doesn’t die. It could come up as an amendment at the end of the legislative session when legislative leaders are looking for every possible penny to balance the budget.

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