Connecticut residents weigh in on legal marijuana

On Wednesday, March 22, Connecticut residents gathered at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford to voice their opinions on marijuana legalization.

The hearing was held in the context of considering Senate Bill 11 (S.B.-11), which was co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Looney (D - District 11) and Sen. Gary Winfield (D - District 10).

Over the course of several hours, numerous speakers gave testimony and answered questions from the Judiciary Committee.

Some speakers gave more nuanced testimony, particularly John Hudak of the Brookings Institution, who said that if the state did choose to legalize marijuana, it would want to make sure the tax on cannabis was neither too high nor too low.

"If marijuana exists in a system and a state chooses to legalize, they should desire that citizens, that residents buy from the regulated system instead of buying from illegal sources where the product is not regulated and you don't know what's in it," Hudak said.

The Committee's questions that followed testimony became heated at times.

Following Joseph LaChance's testimony in favor of legalization, he was quizzed on Colorado legalization by Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70). Rebimbas asked about his connection to Colorado since he "mentioned Colorado at least twice during [his] testimony." She then asked LaChance about the Colorado black market. At one point, she even asked LaChance if he knew what year marijuana was legalized in Colorado.

Much of the testimony against legalization came from folks who said marijuana had triggered mental illness and addiction in their own families. Others cited reports linking marijuana to traffic accidents and schizophrenia.

Many supporters of legalization pointed to possible increased tax revenue for the state rather than philosophical argumentation. Yet, even while legalizing marijuana is projected to bring Connecticut between $45.4 million and $104.6 million, this still would not be enough to tackle Connecticut's looming $1.7 billion budget deficit.

Budget issues aside, it is still a fact that just over two years ago, a Quinnipiac Poll found that Connecticut residents favored marijuana legalization, 63% to 34%.

Given this level of support, it seems odd that a nominally-democratic government would be so slow in abiding by the will of the people.