Marijuana legalization has been blazing through New England states in recent years, and could be coming to Connecticut soon. Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont have passed measures approving recreational cannabis, while Rhode Island and New Jersey are currently considering legislation to follow in suit. As a result, Connecticut is facing pressure from these neighboring states and in-state voters to reevaluate current marijuana policies. Hashing out issues surrounding marijuana on the national level has proven to be difficult for the past several decades, however Americans increasingly favor legalization. Pew Research Center data from 2016 indicates that 57% of adults in this country support legalization efforts. In Connecticut specifically, as of the fall of 2017, a Sacred Heart University poll revealed that 71% of those surveyed support the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana.
A bill in Connecticut is currently being proposed which would permit individuals 21 and older to have possession of one ounce of marijuana. The legalization measure also includes considerations of selling and cultivation, as well as corresponding regulation plans. Issues of taxation are often brought up in the ongoing marijuana debates across the country. This proposal in Connecticut would include taxation rights on marijuana sold in the state.
As it stands now, possession of marijuana for personal use ranges from a civil penalty to a misdemeanor depending on the amount of substance, with fines spanning between $150 and $2,000. Incarceration is applicable to amounts greater than 0.5 ounces. In terms of distribution or cultivation, punishment is significantly more severe. All offenses are penalized as felonies. Incarceration length ranges from 7-25 years. Maximum fines are between $25,000 and $100,000. An additional 3 years of incarceration is applied if distribution or cultivation occurs “within 1,500 feet of an elementary/middle school, public housing project, or daycare center,” according to the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the NORML Foundation. Additionally, if an adult (over 18 years old) is found to distribute to a minor, 2 years of incarceration are attached to their sentence. The legal consequences for marijuana-related infractions have been widely recognized to disproportionately affect people of color, contributing especially to the mass incarceration of black men.
Chronic roadblocks to legalization are debates surrounding approving the substance solely for financial purpose without thorough consideration of health and safety implications. However, dialogue presented by Connecticut legalization supporters is cushioned by the state’s medical marijuana program which has so far exhibited success. The state is waiting for more concrete signals from Democratic Governor Dannel P. Malloy on how he would vote if the bill made it through the legislative system.
Limitations on age, quantity, and other specifics of marijuana’s legal status vary state by state. Despite these discrepancies, marijuana legalization will all-but universally affect college campuses. Despite legalization, college campuses have predominantly remained firm on their forbearance of substance use.
Connecticut College’s drug policy states: “The use, possession or sale of illicit drugs or drug-related paraphernalia as defined by Connecticut state law is strictly prohibited on Connecticut College property, as is the misuse of prescription drugs.” This wording places all illicit drugs into one mixing pot. If legalization were to pass in the state, Conn would have to revise its policy to address marijuana individually, as being separate from other illegal substances.
The hesitation for colleges to permit marijuana use on campuses is not necessarily due to safety or substance concerns. Institutions fear that their federal funding will be revoked for permitting the usage of drugs on academic campuses. The law of concern is the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, active since 1989. For marijuana to be permissible on college campuses would require a joint effort from college administrations and the tougher task of achieving legal recognition by the federal government.