‘It's a Day of History': Advocates Celebrate Cannabis Legalization

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This was a big day for cannabis advocates.

The legalization of recreational marijuana has been a long time coming, especially for those who were previously punished after being caught with it.

“Folks are more free than they’ve ever been,” said Jason Ortiz, CURE CT policy director.

Starting July 1st, adults can legally use recreational marijuana and have limited amounts as people did at an event in Hamden.

“Today is a great day. It’s a day of history. It’s one we’ve been fighting for for a long time,” said Luis Vega of Meriden.

Vega says about five years ago, not far from here, he was arrested for possession.

“Ultimately I couldn’t really get a job because of the record,” said Vega.

Charges also derailed plans for Jason Ortiz twenty-years ago.

“I wasn’t able to get university funding because of the Higher Education Act’s federal aid elimination penalty that said anyone arrested couldn’t get financial aid. So I had to delay my ability to go to college for many years,” said Ortiz.

Much of the debate leading to the new law was focused on equity, with many pointing out the wrongs of decades of policies that have disproportionately harmed Black and Hispanic communities.

According to the ACLU, Black people in the state were four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.

“The less we have laws that can criminalize folks the better race relations will be throughout the state. We really want to make sure our people of color are safe in the communities,” said Ortiz.

Ortiz was eventually able to go to UConn, become a cannabis activist and then help change the state’s law.

As for Vega, he opened his own company and is among those looking to take advantage of the new law’s offer to erase some convictions.

“Even though I’ve had many years of successful businesses in the state, I pay my taxes, I’m a viable member of many Chamber of Commerce here in the state, it’s always going to be that little scar sitting in the corner that it would be nice to get that removed,” said Vega.

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