Marijuana mad dash: Mass. Legalization may mean race for Conn. to do same

File - In this April 20, 2016 file photo, customers buy products at the Harvest Medical Marijuana Dispensary in San Francisco. California's lopsided U.S. Senate is nearing a historic end and voters are pondering a long list of ballot questions that could legalize marijuana, end the death penalty and slap cigarette smokers with a $2-a-pack tax increase. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)
File - In this April 20, 2016 file photo, customers buy products at the Harvest Medical Marijuana Dispensary in San Francisco. California's lopsided U.S. Senate is nearing a historic end and voters are pondering a long list of ballot questions that could legalize marijuana, end the death penalty and slap cigarette smokers with a $2-a-pack tax increase. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)


GUILFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — As it now stands, by the year 2018 anyone over 21 years of age in Massachusetts will be able to walk into a store/dispensary and buy marijuana for recreational use.

Now, the Bay state is scrambling to get the infrastructure in place to regulate and tax the cash crop.

“But you think of it, even if you own a private business, how long it takes to get up and running. Some of those deadlines are pretty tough,” said Deborah Goldberg the Treasurer of Massachusetts.

State Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven believes the timeline gives Connecticut a chance to beat Massachusetts to sell and tax recreational marijuana.

“If we come in next legislative session, we debate the policy and get it approved in legislative session and have into law into the new fiscal year I think we can moved forward,” said Candelaria.

Currently, Connecticut already allows medicinal marijuana usage for over a dozen ailments.

It’s an existing infrastructure Candelaria believes allows the state to move fast and capture a lot of cash from marijuana taxation.

“We cannot balance our budget on the backs of the working families. We have another stream of revenue that’s right in our hands,” said Candelaria.

A study done by the Marijuana Policy Group shows the economic impact from legalized marijuana in Colorado.

Overall:

  • A $2.39 Billion dollar economic impact in 2015
  • In 2015 marijuana was the second largest excise revenue source with $121 in tax revenues to the state
  • Marijuana tax revenues were three times larger than alcohol

It’s a much needed financial solution for Connecticut according Candelaria.

“We can raise enough revenue to cover our deficit and to talk about drug prevention,” said Candelaria.

Others believe the risk is not worth the reward.

“Nobody gets up in the morning and decides they are going to shoot up heroin. Starting from scratch. It’s something that starts with alcohol – it’s something that starts in the basement, a joint out in the woods with your friend’s,” said Bo Huhn.

Bo Huhn is a member of Guilford D.A.Y. (Developmental Assets for Youth), a coalition that works to reduce substance abuse in Connecticut’s young people and points towards marijuana as a drug that eventually leads to experimentation with others.

“We have a terrible problem now, we are just going to make it worse,” said Huhn.

Huhn believes with the current opiate epidemic in Connecticut, legalizing marijuana is the last thing the state needs.

“It’s truly tragic curse on society and the thought that we would take a step to make the addiction problem worse in Connecticut is really mind boggling,” said Huhn.

In order to legalize marijuana on a recreational level, the General assembly would have to pass a law and a signature would be needed from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

The measure in Massachusetts also allows residents to grow up to six marijuana plants.