March 15, 2018

Recreational marijuana legalization gets public airing today

Several Democratic state lawmakers Thursday morning are holding a press conference to tout a a bill that would regulate the retail sale of marijuana in Connecticut.

House Bill 5458 would allow for the growth of pot in the state that could be sold to individuals 21 years or older for recreational use. Other bills calling to regulate the legalization of marijuana have also been proposed by Democratic state leaders.

Thursday's press conference will include remarks from pro-marijuana lawmakers ahead of a planned public hearing on the bill this afternoon.

The marijuana legalization debate has been a contentious one in Connecticut, especially after nearby New England states, including Massachusetts and Vermont, recently legalized recreational pot use.

Already, more than two dozen people filed testimony for Thursday's public hearing in support and against the measure.

A similar bill in the Connecticut General Assembly last year failed to reach the House or Senate, although marijuana advocates are hoping the economic boost from legalization could spur further votes this legislative session.

The Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, for example, says legalization would yield $71 million in tax revenues in the first year and as much as $166 million in future years based on a 6.35 percent sales tax rate and other fees.

Another anti-marijuana group, however, recently released a report that said embracing recreational weed would cost the state $216 million annually by 2020 to administer and enforce.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has opposed legislation but included it as an "alternative" revenue-raising measure in his recent budget proposal.

Connecticut legalized medical marijuana in 2012 and began sales in 2014.

The Trump administration, however, has created uncertainty and concern in states with marijuana programs.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would scrap an Obama-era policy that discourages federal law enforcement from bringing criminal charges for marijuana cultivation and sale in states that have legalized it.

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