Connecticut lawmakers are considering legalizing recreational marijuana, including how they might regulate and tax it. Two committees held hearings Friday.
The proposed bills would limit the sale of marijuana to people who are 21 years old and older and they also call for erasing criminal records for people who were previously convicted of possessing less than an ounce and a half. The legislation also proposes a 20 percent tax.
The General Law Committee is considering regulating the retail sale of cannabis. Read the full bill here.
Members are also looking at a bill that would amend palliative use of marijuana statutes by “adding opioid use disorder as a debilitating medical condition and eliminating the qualifying patient and primary caregiver registration certificate fee.” Read that bill here.
The Judiciary Committee also met. They are considering “an act concerning the legalization of the retail sale and possession of cannabis and concerning erasure of criminal records in the case of convictions based on the possession of a small amount of cannabis.” Read the proposal here.
The committee also saw a bill to “prohibit driving while smoking, inhaling or ingesting a cannabis-type substance, to prohibit a passenger from smoking a cannabis-type substance and to provide funding to train law enforcement officers as drug recognition experts.”
No votes are scheduled for Friday. The General Law Committee is expected to vote during their last meeting on Monday, while the Judiciary Committee has until the second week in April to vote.
The hearings come a week after a group of state and local leaders held a rally on the steps of Wallingford town hall and expressed concerns about legalizing marijuana.
The concerns include that recreational marijuana use doesn’t provide a public health benefit and people could be driving under the influence.
Other people are in favor of it, as long as there are some conditions.
“I think it's fine as long as it's regulated and taxed,” Joe Pizzella, of West Hartford, said
“I want to see regulations around it and controlled and obviously not abused. That’s the most important thing. But you know again, I don't have anything against bringing it in at all. I think it's a good thing if it brought in tax revenue,” Bill Murphy, of Farmington, said.
State Sen. Gary Winfield (D), chief deputy majority leader, said if marijuana is legalized in Connecticut, he wants to make sure anyone previously adversely impacted by laws against the drug gets the same access opportunities as everyone else.
“We want to look at expungement of those who’ve had convictions for marijuana. We want to make sure they’re able to get into the industry. We have what we’ll call equity applicants who have a different threshold for entering,” Winfield said.
But opponents, like Rep. Vincent Candelora (R – 86th Dist.) say equity is a separate issue and shouldn’t come at the expense of what’s right for Connecticut.
“I think we’ve already decriminalized marijuana. If we want to have a conversation about expunging records for people that were convicted of possession of marijuana absolutely, we should put it on the table and have a conversation,” he said.
Candelora said the concerns over addiction, public safety and the wellness of at-risk communities should be a bigger priority than following the footsteps of neighboring states.
“Those are the conversations that we need to have before we take a leap and say we are going to allow businesses to come into the state and spend millions really selling a product that’s addictive and dangerous to our people,’ he said.
The state of Massachusetts legalized marijuana and the first marijuana shop opened in November.
In the four months since, $54 million worth of marijuana have been sold, according to the state’s cannabis control commission.