CT News Junkie | OP-ED | Legalize Recreational Cannabis Or Become A Flyover State

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OP-ED | Legalize Recreational Cannabis Or Become A Flyover State

by | Feb 3, 2017 6:30am
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Posted to: Analysis, Civil Liberties, Health Care, Opinion, Public Health

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Connecticut may or may not be the place where the first constitution in history was written (hence our dubious nickname), but it seems like we miss the boat on a whole lot of a range of opportunities.

The latest seems to be the legalization and sale of a substance less harmful than alcohol and tobacco — namely marijuana. Connecticut could be the subject of a movie called Desperately Seeking Revenue, yet a puzzling number of lawmakers are balking at legalizing and taxing the sale of recreational pot to adults over 21. In a related development, Connecticut legalized medical marijuana in 2012.

According to one lawmaker’s projection, from the sale and taxation of recreational weed, “Connecticut could generate about $50 million in the first year of operation; $100 million-plus in the second year.”

I suppose it shouldn’t come as any surprise. Heck, the state is so broke that we have failed to enact badly needed structural reform of a state employee pension system that is bankrupting us. Instead, this week lawmakers passed a pension bill that amounts to little more than refinancing your home and spreading the payments over the out years to avoid a looming spike in your mortgage payments.

So why not let people smoke pot for fun legally and add hundreds of millions to the state treasury? Mind you, this is at a time in our history when pot smokers are among the only people in the state who wouldn’t mind paying higher taxes, especially when it gives them easier access to their preferred inebriant. Still, there are those who resist.

Three lawmakers warned against legalizing the evil weed at a forum at the Guilford Community Center late last month, including state Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., otherwise known as TK2.

“We should not be trying to solve our financial problems in the state of Connecticut by taxing marijuana,” said Kennedy, who added it’s time to “put a halt to the widespread legalization” of recreational marijuana in the country until further study of its effects are done.

The effects of marijuana have been pretty well studied. We know it’s not good for you and that it can cause memory loss and sap motivation, among other problems. And the smoke is comparable to tobacco in its ill effect on your health.

State Rep. Vincent Candelora is troubled by the fact that today’s pot is much more potent than it was back in the day. Rep. Sean Scanlon told Guilfordites he “has deep reservations about legalization,” in part because he’s concerned marijuana could be a gateway drug at a time when the state is embroiled in an opioid crisis.

That argument has always baffled me. I have seen no evidence that pot can lead to oxycontin or similar drugs. Indeed the opioids themselves are the well documented gateway drugs. They’re legal and available at your local CVS. People take them for pain and then their prescriptions expire or they can’t afford it anymore, so they turn to the much cheaper heroin, which hits the same receptors in the brain and so satisfies the craving but causes an even more deadly addiction.

Fortunately, a powerful lawmaker of influence is making a lot more sense. Senate President Martin Looney has said, “It’s quite arbitrary that we treat alcohol differently than we treat marijuana. Marijuana should be regulated exactly the same way.”

Using TK2’s logic, former Gov. Lowell Weicker should never have made that deal with the state’s two Indian tribes to divvy up slot-machine revenues. Nor should we have ever started a lottery, which I’m sure has ruined far more lives than weed. Ask Connecticut’s own Adam Osmond, who spent more than $1 million on lottery tickets and nearly lost everything only to see it go to the state.

Furthermore, Connecticut had better get with the program, lest it be beaten to the punch by its neighbors. Via ballot initiative, both Maine and Massachusetts legalized recreational pot in November but the Bay State has delayed the opening of retail establishments until July 2018.

Of immediate concern is Rhode Island, where with a wink and a nod from Gov. Gina Raimondo, lawmakers and interest groups are drawing up plans to expedite legislation that would legalize and tax recreational pot at a combined 30 percent and commence sales before neighboring Massachusetts does.

Where would that leave Connecticut? Standing at the starting gates, as usual. By 2018, thousands of New Yorkers will drive through Connecticut every day to Great Barrington, Sturbridge and Westerly to buy their weed, cementing Connecticut’s reputation as flyover country between Boston and Manhattan. And at this rate, we won’t even be able to charge them a toll for the privilege.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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