Marijuana Debate Starts in Connecticut - NBC Connecticut

Marijuana Debate Starts in Connecticut

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    The issue of marijuana legalization isn't a new one in Connecticut, but perhaps for the first time, the issue of recreational use may become a serious one in the General Assembly. (Published Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016)

    The issue of marijuana legalization isn't a new one in Connecticut, but perhaps for the first time, the issue of recreational use may become a serious one in the General Assembly.

    The reason for the shift is that the top member of the Connecticut Senate filed legislation that would directly address the recreational use, the regulation, and the taxation of marijuana.

    The issue is expected to be bipartisan on both sides, for and against.

    “I think it’s something the state legislature should really take a hard look at," said Sen. Gary Winfield, a Democrat from New Haven whose district borders that of Sen. Martin Looney, who presented the bill.

    Winfield says drug arrests have disproportionately affected minorities and marijuana was, for years, one of the most common substances that led to those arrests.

    In recent years Connecticut has decriminalized the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis, but the issue of recreational use has remained on the fringe of politics.

    Winfield says that should change in 2017 for socital, and budget reasons, since the state faces a $1.5 billion shortfall for each of the next two fiscal years.

    “I think it makes a lot of sense at this point particularly when we have the issues that we have with the budget to at least have the conversation in a real way about the legalization of marijuana.”

    Attorney General George Jepsen, when asked Thursday, reiterated that he is in support of the legalization of marijuana.

    Gov. Dannel Malloy, however, says he thinks for now the state has gone as far as it should when it comes to the legalization of cannabis.

    He says Connecticut should wait longer to see how the issue has played out in other states before jumping into the issue, adding that he doesn't think it's a bad idea to take a measured approach.

    “I don’t think anyone should be prosecuted for their personal use in small amounts," Malloy said. "That’s very different than saying the state should play a role in promoting its use. I do not think the state should play a role in promoting its use.”

    On the budget argument, Malloy said, “Revenue is absolutely the wrong reason to get into this business.”

    It's expected that multiple Republicans will joins with Democrats on the issue of marijuana legalization. But one of the top members of the House GOP, Rep. Vincent Candelora, agrees with Malloy.

    He said, “This is a money grab and that is my concern because we are in tough budget times that we’re looking for blood money and legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes so we can tax it has serious concerns.”

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