The Connecticut Commission on Women, Children and Seniors held a forum on Monday on the impact legal marijuana would have on the state. The forum in Hartford brought together former government officials, medical professionals and tax experts from around the country.
Dr. David Nathan, founder and board president of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, said the prohibition on marijuana is not working.
“Today, 22 million Americans use cannabis on what is considered to be a regular basis, meaning once a month or more than that. So this drug isn’t going away.”
Nathan says the basic intent of the prohibition was to prevent children from getting marijuana. But he says even his kids, who are in the 8th and 11th grades, know how to get marijuana in the schools they attend in New Jersey.
“And my son actually added that he’s not sure how he would get alcohol in school, but he knows he could get marijuana. And why is that? Because the points of access in New Jersey are all illegal. And when the points of access are illegal and the people selling it do not check ID, then there’s immediate diversion of that drug from adults to children.”
The panel also looked at how marijuana could be a sector of growth for small businesses.
Kebra Smith-Bolden, a co-owner of Cannabis Consultants of Connecticut and CannaHealth, advocates for women and minorities to start their own businesses in the cannabis industry. Smith-Bolden is also a nurse.
“I began looking at the medical aspect of it. Because I’m like, hey, I’m a nurse, why shouldn’t I be able to work in the cannabis industry somehow as a nurse? And so the next thing I would say is that after you’ve gotten a little education and you begin to network, is to find your niche.”
Several of the panelists warned that Connecticut should avoid having unrealistic expectations about the amount of revenue-taxing legal marijuana would bring to the state.
Andrew Freedman, the former director of marijuana coordination for Colorado, said Colorado collects about $250 million in tax revenue but the state budget is $33 billion.
“Please don’t overestimate to the public what this can do. It cannot solve education, it cannot solve transportation, it cannot solve healthcare.”
Freedman recommends setting aside the tax revenue for a particular program that normally doesn’t receive funding.
Connecticut lawmakers are currently considering a bill to legalize recreational marijuana. It’s unclear if the bill will make it to a vote before the session ends next Wednesday.