CT: Public Hearing On Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

In a switch from the past, the legislature’s general law committee will hold a public hearing on whether the state should legalize recreational marijuana.

Traditionally, committees such as public health and judiciary have had jurisdiction over the issue. But this year, legislators said the issue is being routed through the general law committee under its new House co-chairman, Rep. Michael D’Agostino, a Democrat who is running for attorney general.

A vote to hold the hearing was “the first step toward crafting a regulatory framework for how Connecticut would permit and oversee the growing, use and sale of cannabis for adults 21 and over, should the state choose to make that legal,” D’Agostino said in a statement Friday.

As more New England states make marijuana legal for adults “it is crucial that we have an open and transparent conversation about how we would do the same in Connecticut,’’ he said.

Since no legislative committee has ever voted in favor of recreational marijuana, advocates are hoping this year that they can get a positive vote out of the general law committee.

Some lawmakers say they doubt that marijuana will be legalized during an election year. Rep. Josh Elliott, a Democratic proponent, says there are 17 “no’’ votes among the House Democrats, who control the chamber by 79-72. The measure has failed in recent years due to a lack of support in the House and Senate, along with opposition by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

State Rep. Melissa Ziobron, a committee member and one of the relatively few House Republicans who has publicly supported legalization, also called it imperative to have conversations about cannabis as more states around Connecticut consider legalization.

Nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana use, including Vermont and Massachusetts.

“Let’s examine all the potential regulatory models and get the feedback from our communities we represent,” Ziobron said.

At a press conference against marijuana on Thursday, Rep. Vincent Candelora, a House Republican who also sits on the general law committee, said that the “peer-pressure like argument” of saying Connecticut must act because other states are was “astounding and personally offensive.”

A date and time for the public hearing has not been scheduled.