It’s rare for a bill to have its first public hearing and become law in its first year, but elected officials in the Constitution State are still taking the matter of marijuana legalization very seriously right now. Rhode Island and Vermont have been the two “most likely” states when it comes to marijuana legalization but now that Vermont’sHouse bill, H.170 would take “a miracle” to pass and Rhode Island’s SB. 420 is experiencing a bumpier road than expected; we could see Connecticut pull ahead in the race to legalize. The first legislative hearing on marijuana legalization took place two weeks ago, featuring testimony and conflicting views from both sides of the issue over the safety and risks of the drug.
Connecticut started with four bills, all sponsored by separate groups, but only one of them has a chance at passing, and that’s SB. 11 from Senate President, Martin M. Looney. The bill, titled An Act Concerning the Legalization and Taxation of the Retail Sale of Marijuana aims to “provide for and regulate the retail sale of marijuana to persons twenty-one years of age or older and taxation of any sales of such marijuana.” Essentially, it presents itself in the same style as the commercial tax and regulate bills that have already passed in Colorado and other states.
The hearing, set in front of the House Judiciary Committee, centered around the impact on public health in regards to children. The bill stipulates that the minimum possession age is set at twenty-one and over but that didn’t stop its detractors from bringing in a Yale-affiliated doctor to go over the dire consequences of youth pot consumption. What the hearing did not address is marijuana’s adverse impact on public health under prohibition, including unregulated and untested black market product.
Will Connecticut be the first to legalize via the legislative process in 2017?
The pressure is on, but Connecticut will not rush things, as proven by the suppression of all but one of the four proposed bills. Legalizing pot would certainly help to fill the $1.2billion gap in the state budget (Looney notes it could raise over $100 million a year in tax money) though it would have to be approved by a hesitant Governor Dannel Patrick “Dan” Malloy first. Malloy hasn’t used the word “veto” yet, but he is exercising caution in the things he does say about legalization. “If they’re going to pass legislation, they’ll pass legislation. Ultimately, I’ll have to make a decision based on that legislation, but right now it’s an issue for the legislature.” Side note: Decriminalization was added to Malloy’s budget in his first year as Governor, and he is a supporter of medical marijuana though he doesn’t seem open to recreational legalization; if he does veto, SB. 11 would need support from two-thirds of the state General Assembly.
Featured image by Duncan C