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Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

Representing New Haven, Hamden & North Haven

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Senate President Pro Tempore Looney: Now is the Time to Legalize and Regulate Recreational Marijuana

Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) today submitted testimony to the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee in support of legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana.

Senate Bill 487, An Act Concerning the Legalization, Taxation and Regulation of the Retail Sale of Marijuana and Concerning the Production and Regulation of Hemp, contains specific provisions designed to encourage small business development and promote diversity. The Department of Consumer Protection would be required to adopt procedures and policies to encourage business applications from people who are part of communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. And since drug prohibition has been enforced in a racially disparate manner, to avoid perpetuating the disparity, individuals with an infraction or misdemeanor drug charge would not be disqualified from participating in the marijuana industry. The bill also includes provisions for tiered marijuana cultivator licenses based on the size of the facility or the number of plants.

“It is time we take the rational, common-sense approach to marijuana, as we did with alcohol: regulating and taxing it,” testified Senator Looney. “We need to ensure that Connecticut is not left behind as our neighbors move forward with common sense marijuana policy.”

Maine and Massachusetts approved ballot initiatives in November, 2016 and retail sales north of our border in Massachusetts are expected to begin in July. In May 2017, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana not by ballot initiative, but by a vote of its legislature. Rhode Island and New Jersey are seriously considering enacting similar measures.

In his testimony, Senator Looney wrote, “According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 479,000 Connecticut residents used marijuana in 2015—over 13 percent of the state’s population. Other than those who are participants in our medical marijuana program, these users are getting this product from the illicit market, which poses significant dangers. Buyers can be sold marijuana tainted with harmful contaminants, offered hard drugs, or even physically assaulted. If this bill is enacted, consumers could purchase products from regulated stores. Marijuana would be produced by regulated growers and product manufacturers, and would be tested for potency and contaminants. It would also have warning labels and child-proof packaging.”

Senator Looney’s testimony also focused on how legalization can also help Connecticut’s economy, “During 2014, the first year of implementation of Colorado Amendment 64, Colorado’s legal marijuana market reached total sales of $700 million. It is estimated that, in 2015, the legal marijuana industry in Colorado created more than 18,000 new full-time jobs and generated $2.4 billion in economic activity. A recent report projects that, by 2020, the legal cannabis market will create more than a quarter of a million jobs nationally. And these jobs will come with the protections workers deserve, from minimum wage and overtime regulations, to unemployment insurance and social security,” Senator Looney wrote.

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