Second public hearing to legalize recreational marijuana

Marijuana plant (file)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A second public hearing is on the books for Wednesday about legalizing recreational marijuana here in the state. Legalizing marijuana would bring in millions in tax revenue and keep people out of prison. It could also lead to a lot more people using marijuana, which has consequences for health and safety.

For the second time, lawmakers in Hartford are hearing the pros and cons of legalizing recreational marijuana. One way of thinking is that too much of anything is bad.

“If alcohol was not legal and we were trying to make it legal today, you could point to numerous studies showing how it’s bad,” said Rep. Joshua Elliott, (D) Hamden. “Numerous studies showing how caffeine is bad.”

Robyn Sneider of Clinton is the mother of two college-aged kids and says Connecticut has to learn from the mistakes of states where recreational marijuana is already legal.

“We have learned alarming results from Colorado’s studies alone: increased traffic deaths, increased emergency room visits, and a drastically increased number of youth using marijuana,” Sneider said.

New Haven democratic State Representative Toni Walker pressed her about that, however, saying young people will always experiment, but unlike marijuana, experimenting with alcohol or tobacco won’t land them in prison.

“But by making it a criminal offense and keeping it a criminal offense, it also pushes more kids into a system that will not allow them to have another chance,” Walker said.

The CCRM Director, Sam Tracy says:

“Our state’s current marijuana prohibition policy is causing far more harm than good for our communities,” Connecticut voters overwhelmingly support regulating marijuana. This is a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol. It should be produced and sold by licensed businesses, similarly to alcohol, rather than criminals in the underground market.”

This would allow adults 21 and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana or purchase it from licensed establishments. Marijuana sales would be taxed at a total rate of 30% (23.65% plus the standard 6.25% state sales tax).  The Liquor Control Commission would become the Liquor and Marijuana Control Commission, and it would be responsible for overseeing a tightly regulated system of marijuana retailers, cultivators, producers, and testing laboratories. Towns would be able to prohibit such establishments or adopt rules governing how, when, and where they can operate. The commission would create and enforce health and safety regulations, such as testing protocols, security requirements, labeling and packaging standards, and restrictions on marketing.

Taxing pot could bring in millions of dollars in revenue. One Yale doctor, however, testified about the potential costs, and who might end up in his emergency room.

“There is absolutely no question that acutely, cannabinoids can impair driving,” said Dr. Deepak D’Souza. “Driving on I-95 is bad enough. Driving on I-95 with people who are stoned is a very bad idea.”

Nearly two-thirds of Connecticut voters (63%) support making possession of small amounts of marijuana legal for adults, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll conducted in March 2015.

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