Last week residents in four states voted to legalize recreational weed — and Connecticut might be next. In recent statements, Gov. Dannel Malloy has said he will also consider re-evaluating marijuana legalization and sale.
On Nov. 8, voters in Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and California legalized recreational pot use in a ballot referendum. Arizona was the only state where voters decided against it when presented with the question.
But in Connecticut, ballots do not have single-issue questions. Instead, a bill legalizing the drug would have to pass through the General Assembly and be signed by Malloy. He has publicly said in the past that he is opposed to the substance. But in a Nov. 11 interview with the New Haven Independent, Malloy said he would reconsider his stance after the successful referendums in other states.
“We might have to re-examine our legal position, our position of enforcement, based on what some surrounding states are doing,” said Malloy in an interview with the Independent.
In 2011, Malloy approved a bill that decriminalized the possession of small quantities of the drug, and the following year he signed off on legislation that approved its medical use. Malloy personally believes that those measures have gone far enough, he said.
But several state lawmakers disagree. State Reps. Juan Candelaria (D–New Haven) and Toni Walker (D–New Haven) are among the strongest proponents of the drug’s legalization. They have unsuccessfully proposed several bills to legalize the drug in the past, most recently in February, arguing that the state could generate millions in tax revenue through the sale of the drug.
If Connecticut follows their plans and opens dispensaries before January 2018, when Massachusetts is set to begin sales, Malloy will be able to benefit from the initial wave of purchases.
Rep. Vincent Candelora (R–North Branford) has strongly opposed and continues to oppose legalization. In an interview with the News, he called its potential tax revenue “blood money.” He believes that the negative social effects seen in Colorado, such as an increase in tickets for driving under the influence and accidental ingestion by children, outweigh the potential benefits of more tax revenue. He is concerned about the negative potential impact that Massachusetts’ legalization may have on Connecticut, pointing to lawsuits filed against Colorado by its neighboring states, which alleged that legal sale in Colorado increased illegal use in their own states.
Rep. Terrie Wood (R–Darien) is open to discussion on the issue, according to her press secretary Derek Stanley. Wood’s decision should not be a financial one but rather a moral one, Stanley said.
“I would be strongly opposed to legalizing the drug simply to increase tax revenue for the state,” she said in an email from Stanley. “Instead, I will focus my inquiry on the far-reaching implications of such a decision.”
Candelora added that it is unlikely that a bill legalizing weed would pass in the General Assembly. When bills to legalize the drug have been brought up in the past, they have not even made it to a general hearing.
If a bill were to pass, three students interviewed believe it would not have an impact on drug culture at Yale. Anvay Tewari ’19 and Oliver Shoulson ’20 both said that people do not abstain from pot use because it is banned.Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, said in order for legalization to influence campus, a sizeable drug culture must already exist. In his opinion, marijuana use at Yale is not prevalent enough for legalization to have a large effect.
“I don’t think there’s a population that’s held back because it is illegal,” Tewari said.
The sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes is currently legal in eight states and in Washington, D.C.