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Pressured By Massachusetts, Connecticut Lawmakers Explore Questions About Legal Pot

Scott Beale

Connecticut lawmakers are under pressure over legalizing the recreational use of marijuana as Massachusetts gets set to sell pot from July of this year. 

There are four bills before the legislature in Hartford aimed at moving the state towards recreational use, prompted in part by the fact that legal pot will be available just a few miles away this summer. But it’s not clear if any of them have the legs to get out of the committee process.

Boston Globe reporter Dan Adams told Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live that Massachusetts is already anticipating cannabis tourism from surrounding states.

“If you talk to folks in the marijuana industry, they’re very excited about the fact that Massachusetts is the first state east of the Mississippi to implement a regulated recreational marijuana market,” he said. “They’re expecting people from all over the Northeast who are curious about this to come try it out.”

Legalization of recreational pot has failed in Connecticut for the last two years. State Senator Gary Winfield thinks the state should now step up to the difficulties around regulating legal marijuana.

“There’s a real effort to move this issue forward,” he told the show. He said for him, it’s an issue of social justice for minority communities. “Some people say that marijuana is the gateway to other drugs, and I’ve suggested that marijuana is the gateway to prison.”

He said his fellow lawmakers shouldn’t be tempted to legalize recreational pot purely for the revenue the state might be able to gain on taxes.

State Representative Vincent Candelora opposes legalization. He said some of the enthusiasm around pot is just misplaced nostalgia.

“When people start to learn more and more about how that drug has changed over 30 years… the THC levels are now at 30 percent, whereas in the '70s and '80s it was down around three percent,” he said. “It’s not the same drug that many of us knew when we were younger. There’s a lot of intricacies in trying to deregulate the market.”

He said he would expect legalization to compound Connecticut’s resource problems around trying to provide addiction treatment for other drugs including opioids.

Questions also surround what would be the fate of the established medical marijuana market in Connecticut if the drug was legalized for recreational use. Winfield said conversations are ongoing with places like Colorado which have already legalized recreational use to examine the effects on medical research and use of the drug.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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