Connecticut Changes the Conversation on Cannabis

March 6, 2020

As more and more states begin the process of legalizing cannabis, Connecticut is poised to follow suit. The Judiciary Committee recently held a day-long public hearing to review a proposal submitted by Governor Lamont that seeks to overhaul decades worth of archaic drug policy, a lot of which was enacted during the sweeping “war on drugs” in the early 1990’s and disproportionally impacted people of color. With Connecticut’s neighbors to the north, including Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine having already legalized, there are several models the state can follow.

Framing a positive narrative around legalization needs to be about more than just economics. While the added tax revenue would be welcome in a state that constituently struggles with budget deficits, proponents are rightfully making the case for equity and social justice. Whether that includes expungement of certain criminal convictions, awarding licenses with a preference toward minority-owned businesses, or curtailing the influence of the unregulated black market—the case for cannabis is strong.

As more states surrounding Connecticut are weighing whether or not to legalize this year, lawmakers must seriously consider the ramifications of inaction. If every state that borders Connecticut establishes a legal, regulatory framework for cannabis and nothing happens in the land of steady habits, it could unintentionally strengthen the influence of the black market. Having already championed a nationally renowned medical cannabis program, the state’s Department of Consumer Protection is well-positioned to regulate and oversee a recreational cannabis program utilizing much of the existing infrastructure it already has in place.

Several clergy members, social justice advocates, lawmakers, and regulators all agree that it’s time to change the conversation on cannabis in Connecticut. As the country begins to review its drug policy on a state by state basis, it’s time for the Nutmeg State to act. Governor’s Bill 16:  An Act Concerning the Adult Use of Cannabis takes meaningful steps in the right direction to reverse our state’s discriminatory drug laws and will invigorate a new sector in our state’s labor market—taking progressive steps toward cultivating a more business friendly environment.

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