With a projected state budget deficit hungry for new revenue sources and a growing number of nearby states legalizing recreational cannabis some lawmakers believe 2021 will be the year Connecticut does the same.
“I think it will be a very, very close vote in the house,” incoming house speaker Matt Ritter says.
The outcome of the election gives proponents more flexibility in guiding a legalization bill through the legislative process.
“If we do not have the votes and I am not raising the white flag I want to be very clear, we will put something on the board to put to the voters of the State of Connecticut to amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana,” Ritter said.
He said he doesn’t know if he has the votes yet.
“At the end of the day, speaking of the Republicans, where are Libertarian Republican friends? Where are they? Where are they?” Ritter said.
Legalization isn’t a party issue, but few Republicans support the issue.
Incoming House minority leader Vincent Candelora is against legalization.
“I think we should be focusing on the impacts of distance learning, the increase in drug addiction, the increase in domestic violence, the preventative healthcare that has gone by the wayside. Those are all real financial issues that the state is facing,” Candelora says.
The state is facing a more than a $1 billion deficit next fiscal year and the revenue would help, but democratic proponents of legalization say it’s not all about the money.
“Revenue is one piece of it but it’s not the most important piece, but it is money that’s being left on the table,” Rep. Jason Rojas saidd.
That revenue would also be used to create opportunities for communities impacted by the War on Drugs.
“This is about opportunity. This is about reversing decades of a racist system that punished people overwhelmingly in our cities and our minority communities,” Rep. Michael D’Agostino said.
There are many objections to legalization.
“They are concerned about youth and the message that it sends to youth,” Rojas said of the opposition to legalization.
But as more states legalize, there’s more pressure on Connecticut for commercial adult use of marijuana.
“You can just drive 40 miles away or 20 minutes away and purchase it,” Ritter said.
If recreational marijuana ends up being put up for a public vote – that wouldn’t happen until 2022 or 2024.