Around this same time last year it became clear that cannabis legalization wasn’t going to get the chance it deserved in the Connecticut legislature. A bill had been discussed for hours, but it never made it out of committee to be heard by the General Assembly. It appears that 2018 may be a better year for the possibility of legalization in the state, as the House Appropriations Committee advanced a bill last week which would lead to eventually legalizing and regulating a recreational cannabis market.
“It’s a great feeling to make it further than we ever have,” said Sam Tracy, head of the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. “It was a historic day for Connecticut.”
House Bill 5394 passed the committee vote narrowly with 27 in favor and 24 against. If passed by both the House and the Senate – rather than directly legalizing cannabis – it would instead require the Office of Policy and Management to develop a plan to legalize and regulate retail sales of cannabis. Some lawmakers are opposed to the bill because it also requires the development of a regulating body to oversee legalization – which they claim the state doesn’t have the money to do.
“A legal regulated recreational marijuana industry would launch a new industry in Connecticut, create thousands of new jobs, and produce hundreds of millions of needed annual tax revenue for the state,” said Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor.
However, one of the main benefits of legalization is the substantial amount of tax revenue that states have been able to collect from the newly legal industry. The industry is likely to grow quickly as it has in other states – which not only means thousands of new jobs, but possibly millions in tax revenue in a short amount of time (compared to other possible ways to increase state revenue). It is fair to assume that the initial cost of implementing legalization would be covered – and then some – relatively quickly after legal sales begin.
“It is time we treated and regulated marijuana the same way we treat alcohol or tobacco. It is long past time we in this country acknowledged that attitudes about marijuana have changed dramatically and it is time for us too in this land of steady habits to change with it,” Ganim said in a Monday announcement.
While this bill is not directly a bill to legalize cannabis, it is a great step forward for a state that is greatly in favor of legalization. A poll last fall by Sacred Heart University found that 71 percent of Connecticut supports legalizing, regulating and taxing cannabis for adult consumption, and other polls come in with comparable results – so it’s clear that this is the direction that residents are hoping for things to go. Between the possibility of a pro-cannabis governor in the future and the hopes of passing legislation that would be the first step towards legalization, things are starting to look up for Connecticut.