Connecticut has been making impressive progress in the area of medical marijuana and is now ready to open up to recreational, if the state’s majority has its way.
Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney recently introduced a bill, which if it passes, would enable Connecticut to join fellow New England states of Massachusetts and Maine, where ballot initiatives passed in November.
“There seems to be a national trend moving in that direction,” Looney said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
That’s for sure. Eight states now have legalized recreational weed.
But Gov. Dannel Malloy, also a Democrat, opposes the bill, although he has approved measures decriminalizing possession and allowing MMJ use.
“I don’t think the people of Connecticut want dispensaries up and down streets,” the governor said in December.
While Looney acknowledges the governor’s opposition, he will still move forward with legalization efforts.
“I’m hopeful that we might get him to change his mind, especially given the fact that it could be a significant revenue source,” Looney said.
The Senate leader estimated that legalization could generate up to $50 million in revenue a year if Connecticut adopts the same tax structure as Colorado, where legal sales of medical and recreational weed topped $1 billion after only 10 months in 2016, according to Forbes Magazine.
In that Connecticut is facing a $1.5 billion budget shortfall, the added revenue would be more than welcome.
Becky Dansky, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, said Connecticut’s proximity to Massachusetts will likely put pressure on lawmakers to consider legalization.
“Do you really want everyone in your state, plus everyone in New York driving through your state, to go spend their money somewhere else?” Dansky asked.
Not to mention that 63 percent of Connecticut voters support legalization, according to a 2015 Quinnipiac University Poll.
As expected, some Republican leaders said the prospective new tax revenue would not justify the disadvantages of legalization, whatever they are.
“We don’t sell our soul just to fill our coffers,” said Len Fasano, Republican Senate president pro tempore, in the Wall Street Journal article.
Meanwhile, Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said he wants to debate the merits of legalization with the public, government agencies and lawmakers.
Last year, a bill to legalize marijuana, sponsored by Rep. Juan Candelaria was killed by the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
When Massachusetts voted to legalize marijuana in November, Candelaria said he was optimistic about the bill passing in 2017.