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Mass. Will Consider Legalizing Weed Nov. 8; Some Lawmakers Hope Connecticut Will Be Next

by | Oct 21, 2016 9:00am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share

shutterstock A New Haven state representative said a neighboring state’s ballot question on legalizing recreational marijuana means it’s time for Connecticut to get moving on the same initiative.

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New Haven Democratic Rep. Juan Candelaria, who has unsuccessfully lobbied for recreational marijuana legislation in Connecticut in the past, said he is confident that the outcome will be different in 2017.

Candelaria said the fact that voters in nearby Massachusetts, in a few weeks, will vote on Election Day whether to add the Bay State to a growing list of states legalizing recreational marijuana is fueling his sense of urgency.

“We have a fiscal crisis in the state of Connecticut,” Candelaria said. “Do we want to see tax money that we so desperately need leaving our state and being spent in Massachusetts? No, we don’t.”

Candelaria noted that even if Massachusetts’ voters pass the marijuana initiative, the first legal, recreational pot sale is not expected to occur until January 2018 at the earliest.

“We have an opportunity,” Candelaria said, “to beat Massachusetts to the punch if we move quickly on this. We can be in business — first.”

Candelaria said the reason he is optimistic is because, “Frankly, Connecticut is ready. Polls show the majority of Connecticut people want to see this happen.”

A Quinnipiac University Poll conducted in March 2015 found 63 percent of voters support legalization.

Twenty-five states, including Connecticut, have legalized medical marijuana, while four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — have legalized recreational pot, as has Washington, D.C.

Candelaria said when he looked into recreational marijuana a few years ago, his research told him that “Connecticut could generate about $50 million in the first year of operation; $100 million-plus in the second year.”

Candelaria and fellow New Haven state Rep. Toni Walker hosted an “informational seminar” on recreational marijuana at the state capitol this past April — even though both state representatives made it clear at the time that they weren’t planning to push for legislation in the 2016 General Assembly session.

Walker, who is co-chairman of the legislature’s budget-writing committee, has said the revenue generated from a tax on marijuana would be deposited in the state’s General Fund, and some of it would be diverted for drug awareness education and efforts to curb abuse of opiates, alcohol, and other harmful substances.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who successfully pushed for decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana in 2011 and legalizing the medical use of marijuana in 2012, hasn’t supported legalizing recreational use in the past.

Kelly Donnelly, spokesperson for Malloy, said: “We respect Massachusetts’ prerogative to do what they believe is best for the state on this issue, as we in Connecticut will continue to advocate and deliberate on what we think is best for us.”

The number of patients in the state of Connecticut receiving medical marijuana treatment keeps growing, now at 13,440, according to Department of Consumer Protection Deputy Commissioner Michelle Seagull.

In the past legislative session, a bill became law giving children under the age of 18 access to non-smokeable medical marijuana.

The new law, which went into effect on Oct. 1, gives minors with severe epilepsy and terminal illnesses access to marijuana after the approval of two doctors.

There are plenty of others, besides Malloy, who believe legalizing recreational pot is a bad idea.

“There are a number of reasons why legalization is a bad idea, but the most important reason is the adverse health impact on youth,” Bo Huhn, a member of Guilford Development Assets for Youth (D.A.Y.) executive council, said. “The science is clear that memory and emotion are significantly disrupted by chronic marijuana use at a young age.”

Huhn added: “Not surprisingly, legalization of medical marijuana, followed by full legalization in Colorado caused a 60 percent increase of teen use of marijuana in the state between 2006 and 2015. Colorado now has the highest level of teen use of marijuana in the U.S.”

“And of course marijuana is one of the pathway drugs that leads some kids deep into the morass of addiction. I would hope that our legislators will consider the impact legalization would have on the children of their district,” continued Huhn. “Addiction is not a trivial problem in our inner cities, and/or our suburbs and/or our rural areas. It is a terrible problem for all income levels and all ethnic and racial groups.”

Massachusetts is just one of five states with recreational marijuana on the ballot this November. Arizona, California, Maine, and Nevada are the other states considering it.

The Massachusetts ballot question reads as follows:

The proposed law would permit the possession, use, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana in limited amounts by persons age 21 and older and would remove criminal penalties for such activities. It would provide for the regulation of commerce in marijuana, marijuana accessories, and marijuana products and for the taxation of proceeds from sales of these items.

The proposed law would authorize persons at least 21 years old to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their residences; possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana inside their residences; grow up to six marijuana plants in their residences; give one ounce or less of marijuana to a person at least 21 years old without payment; possess, produce or transfer hemp; or make or transfer items related to marijuana use, storage, cultivation, or processing.

The measure would create a Cannabis Control Commission of three members appointed by the state Treasurer which would generally administer the law governing marijuana use and distribution, promulgate regulations, and be responsible for the licensing of marijuana commercial establishments. The proposed law would also create a Cannabis Advisory Board of 15 members appointed by the Governor. The Cannabis Control Commission would adopt regulations governing licensing qualifications; security; record keeping; health and safety standards; packaging and labeling; testing; advertising and displays; required inspections; and such other matters as the Commission considers appropriate. The records of the Commission would be public records.

The proposed law would authorize cities and towns to adopt reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of operating marijuana businesses and to limit the number of marijuana establishments in their communities. A city or town could hold a local vote to determine whether to permit the selling of marijuana and marijuana products for consumption on the premises at commercial establishments.

The proceeds of retail sales of marijuana and marijuana products would be subject to the state sales tax and an additional excise tax of 3.75 percent. A city or town could impose a separate tax of up to 2 percent. Revenue received from the additional state excise tax or from license application fees and civil penalties for violations of this law would be deposited in a Marijuana Regulation Fund and would be used subject to appropriation for administration of the proposed law. Marijuana-related activities authorized under this proposed law could not be a basis for adverse orders in child welfare cases absent clear and convincing evidence that such activities had created an unreasonable danger to the safety of a minor child. The proposed law would not affect existing law regarding medical marijuana treatment centers or the operation of motor vehicles while under the influence. It would permit property owners to prohibit the use, sale, or production of marijuana on their premises (with an exception that landlords cannot prohibit consumption by tenants of marijuana by means other than by smoking); and would permit employers to prohibit the consumption of marijuana by employees in the workplace. State and local governments could continue to restrict uses in public buildings or at or near schools. Supplying marijuana to persons under age 21 would be unlawful.

The proposed law would take effect on December 15, 2016.

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