In Connecticut, lawmakers are considering legislation that would regulate adult use cannabis for those 21 years and older. On Monday morning, a judiciary committee public hearing was held so that concerned citizens could weigh in on the potential historic law.
Not everyone who showed out was in favor of legalizing marijuana. Ken Walch, an activist with Coalition for a Better Wallington, broke down while speaking of his concern that using marijuana leads to harder drug abuse. Walch’s 21 year old stepdaughter Taylor died of substance abuse.
“If you do it Taylor would be looking down shedding a tear for all of us,” he said.
Some lawmakers took a practical approach to the issue of cannabis legalization.
“No one is here advocating for the use of cannabis, that’s not what this is about,” said Representative Steve Stafstrom. This is about saying it is here. It is at our doorsteps. It’s on our streets. How should we as a state regulate that substance?”
Others have spoken out about how marijuana legalization relates to human rights issues. Notably, the state’s Governor Ned Lamont used his State of the State address to talk about the importance of removing cannabis prohibition. His remarks were seen as a push for policymakers to enact marijuana access laws, and accordingly, the new proposed legislation was dubbed the Governor’s Bill to recognize his support.
Past efforts to legalize marijuana in the state, such as an unsuccessful 2019 legislative push, have also been motivated by Connecticut’s history of racially biased policing.
Neighboring States Reforming Laws
Connecticut’s neighboring state Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2016; the vote was signed into law in 2017. Operating dispensaries are now located 30 miles away from Connecticut’s capital Hartford, a fact that essentially ensures that Connecticuts’ cannabis users already have access to recreational marijuana — but tax revenue from those purchases are not going into the state’s coffers.
The state’s other regional neighbors New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are all considering plans to legalize cannabis. Governors have been attempting to regularize regulations so as to facilitate cross-state activity and minimize the number of residents going over state lines to buy their cannabis. Last fall, Lamont and New York governor Mario Cuomo held a press conference establishing a “strategic partnership” between the states when it comes to e-cigarette and cannabis policy.
Many of Connecticut’s institutions have begun to show new interest in the legal uses of cannabis. In New Haven, Yale University’s School of Medicine announced that it had been awarded the state’s first license to study cannabis’ effects on mental health.
Connecticut legalized medical marijuana back in 2012, and last year expanded the program to allow entry of patients with eight more medical conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and migraines.
The state’s currently proposed legalization regulations would erase cannabis-related convictions related to under four ounces of marijuana that occurred after October 2015. It would allow consumers to buy up to an ounce and a half of cannabis at once.
“This is about how do we do something that is forward-looking and future-looking and yes deals with the issues past because of bad policy we’ve had,” said state Senator Gary Winfield at Monday’s hearing.