Marijuana Debate Starts in CT General Assembly

For the first time, the Connecticut General Assembly is seriously considering regulating the recreational use of marijuana.

The plan Tuesday was to bring the bill up for debate, but then not hold a vote.

The Speaker of the Connecticut House, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz conceded that the bill was about 12 votes short of passage.

“I think it’s important to have the debate if it’s going to be considered at all through the budgetary process," Aresimowicz said.

The bill would place limits on how many plants could be owned by an individual or a family, create a licensing structure for dispensaries, and set taxing guidelines for all cannabis products.

Republican Rep. Melissa Ziobron has been one of the most vocal supporters of the legislation since the start of the session.

“That’s the libertarian streak in me," Ziobron said during an interview. "I believe strongly that people have a right to their personal freedoms but I think it’s the eventuality of this topic when you look at all of the New England states now.”

The consensus among supporters is that they feel that if Connecticut doesn't act soon on the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, then the state could miss out and be behind other states in the region. Maine and Massachusetts are a year away from coming online with their programs, and Vermont could be next in line.

“I think there is this general feeling that this is going to happen," said Rep. Josh Elliott. "We are going to legalize recreational marijuana and the question is this: do we want to this year, next year, or five years from now, and every year that we delay, we’re getting less revenue into the state.”

Governor Dan Malloy has not supported the issue from the start but wouldn't say he'd veto a budget that included projections of $50 million to $100 million in revenues.

“I’m not saying never but it’s not something I’ve advocated and it’s not part of my policy plans," he said.

Opponents to the marijuana legislation, which includes both Democrats and Republicans, are worried about the social consequences of such a bill, and add that passing it just to raise money, isn't a good reason.

“While it may have had lukewarm support, a lot of members have backed off and don’t support the concept," Rep. Vincent Candelora said.

Wednesday is the last day of the legislative session, but the legislation could end up in what's known as the legislation to implement the state budget later in June.

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