The Connecticut legislature will be addressing the issue of recreational marijuana this session. Two bills regarding the subject of regulation have been submitted for this session. The two sponsors are House Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Juan Candelaria, and Rep. Edwin Vargas.
The pair of bills are admittedly short of the final plan with concrete figures and proposals. Rather the two proposals hope to generate discussion at the highest levels of state government. Both bills read very much the same, proposing legal possession for persons over 21 years of age, and calling for the state to regulate its possession, sale, cultivation and use.
What makes the Connecticut case important is that, unlike the instances of legalization in Colorado and Oregon, this discussion is not the result of a voter referendum. Considering that the state decriminalized marijuana in 2011 and approved its use medically in 2012, Connecticut lawmakers set precedence as a place where this discussion can take place in legislative halls.
In an interview, Rep. Candelaria explained his stance,
“We have done it for medicinal purposes, and we need to have a broader conversation about recreational uses.”
Pro-legalization activists may be encouraged that a Quinnipiac University poll in May found 52 percent of Connecticut’s voting population supported legalization of small amounts of the drug for personal use. The strongest support was, not surprisingly, reported from those under 30 with 80 percent in favor.
The bills, were they to be approved, may run into opposition from Governor Dannel P. Malloy. During a debate in September, the governor admitted to past use of marijuana, but said he opposed the legalization of recreational use. The governor previously signed the medical marijuana law.
The governor’s spokesman, Mark Bergman, explained that Malloy’s emphasis is on the need to reform drug laws and give non-violent offenders second chances. Bergman, however, did not close the door entirely, noting there are a wide range of possible bills that could come of the proposals. He explained “We will see what comes out of that process before we come to a determination.”
Supporters, like Representatives Candelaria and Vargas are hopeful, but realistic about their chances.
“I’m not sure they think that politically it would fly yet, but privately everyone seems to agree with it.”
Said Rep. Vargas.
“I’m not sure people will have the courage to do that on the record.”
Connecticut would not be alone in New England regarding the marijuana issue. Vermont’s state legislature is also tackling the same issue this session. Rhode Island did look at legislation last year, and is expected to re-visit the idea this year. New Hampshire’s state house was the first to vote in favor of legalization, but this was in a preliminary vote that did not translate into action.
And in both Maine and Massachusetts, voter referendums similar to the ones passed in Colorado and Oregon are expected to come up on the ballot either this year or the next. In both states, a successful referendum would become law. A market research firm expects all six New England states, including Connecticut, to legalize marijuana by 2020.