Yalies are looking to spark a conversation about how the legalization of recreational marijuana should look in the Elm City and beyond.

Last year, Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 submitted a resolution to the Board of Alders, asking New Haven to support cannabis legalization and push lawmakers to reform on the state level. At the time, Catalbasoglu’s attempt fizzled, but Hartford has since signaled that change is on the way. Now, Yalies are looking to kick-start the city’s discussion on how, once legalized, the city will address implementation and regulation to benefit the Elm City economically and socially. Last week, Catalbasoglu worked in conjunction with leaders from several student organizations on campus to draft and submit a request for a public hearing to the Board of Alders. The groups hope to provide a platform to discuss the eventual rollout of legal marijuana.

“It looks like marijuana will be legalized [at the state level],” Catalbasoglu told the News. “I just want to make sure that, when it is legalized, we have the necessary structures … the state won’t necessarily be dealing with [implementation].”

When Catalbasoglu first assumed his seat two years ago on the Board of Alders, he called on New Haven’s legislators to lead the way in spearheading cannabis legalization in the capital. Hartford, then under the direction of former Gov. Dannel Malloy with narrow Democratic control, had not committed to the idea of legalization.

But newly-elected Gov. Ned Lamont SOM ’80 ran to replace the outgoing Malloy on a campaign that explicitly embraced legalization and has continued advocating that stance since assuming the state’s highest office in January. Lamont’s support for legalization is bolstered by solid Democratic majorities in both houses of the state legislature. Additionally, several of Connecticut’s neighboring states have passed or embarked on legalization attempts.

Several bills concerning legalization have already been introduced, and advocates statewide, including a coalition of groups on campus that includes the Yale College Democrats and the Yale University Students for Sensible Drug Policy, believe that the measure will come to fruition in the near future, especially as an economic mandate tied to legalization also gains traction.

Given the favorable odds of legalization, Catalbasoglu and that coalition of student organizations are moving away from legalization advocacy and towards the next step: discussing and designing effective implementation.

In the letter to Board of Alders President and Ward 23 Alder Tyisha Walker-Myers, Catalbasoglu cited HB5595, which was referred to the Connecticut General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding on Jan. 18. The bill, which was jointly introduced by 47 legislators from across both sides of the aisle — including several New Haven representatives — authorizes and regulates the sale and adult use of marijuana in the Nutmeg State.

While the bill is widely expected to pass, it does not inherently make provisions surrounding how legal marijuana will fit into local economies and communities. The requested hearing that Catalbasoglu and University students are pushing is not designed “to support or decry marijuana legalization,” the letter states, but to start conversation.

The issues proposed for discussion include tax revenue designation from cannabis sales; limitations on public use; standards and protections of licensing and small businesses; and initiatives to address damaged communities.

“In line with our priorities, we want the populations that are most harmed [by criminalization] to be heard in legalization,” Aidan Pillard ’20, president of Yale Students for Sensible Drug Policy told the News.  “So a public hearing in New Haven makes a lot of sense.”

Catalbasoglu asked that the hearing request be assigned to the Board’s Human Services Committee, which could approve and schedule a public hearing for as early as March.

The New Haven Board of Alders has 30 members.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu