As it stands right now, there are 8 states that have voted to legalize marijuana, along with America’s capital. Every single one of the those states has legalized marijuana via a citizen initiative. For those that are not familiar with initiatives, in some states citizens can gather enough signatures to put marijuana legalization on the ballot. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Washington D.C., California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts – all of them legalized marijuana via that process.
With no potential initiatives being voted on in 2017, all eyes in the marijuana reform world have pivoted towards state legislatures. The question of ‘who will be the first to legalize via legislative action’ has popped up a lot lately. I think it’s a fairly safe bet that it will be a state in the Northeastern part of America, with some states being more likely than others. I think that Rhode Island has a great chance, but so do other states in the region. Now that Massachusetts and Maine have legalized, state legislatures in the region have been ramping up discussions to follow suit.
Connecticut is one of those states. Connecticut shares a border with Massachusetts, and the longer Connecticut clings to prohibition the bigger the head start Massachusetts’ cannabis industry will have. Legalization is far from a done deal in Connecticut, but I do think that many in Connecticut’s Legislature are seeing the writing on the wall, and would rather get out ahead of things instead of sit and wait.
Legalization is working in states that allow it. A report out of Colorado found the following, per the Marijuana Policy Project:
• ”For adults and adolescents, past-month marijuana use has not changed since legalization either in terms of the number of people using or the frequency of use among users.”
• ”Based on the most comprehensive data available, past-month marijuana use among Colorado adolescents is nearly identical to the national average.”
• ”Daily or near-daily marijuana use among adults is much lower than daily or near-daily alcohol or tobacco use. Among adolescents, past month marijuana use is lower than past month alcohol use.”
• ”Marijuana exposure calls to the poison center appear to be decreasing since 2015, including unintentional exposures in children ages 0-8 years.”
• ”The overall rate of emergency department visits with marijuana-related billing codes dropped 27 percent from 2014 to 2015 (2016 data is not available yet).”
• The estimated percentage of women in Colorado who used marijuana during pregnancy is “not statistically different” from the national average.
The same could be true for Connecticut if it legalized marijuana. A poll out of Connecticut from 2015 found that 63% of poll participants supported legalizing marijuana in Connecticut. I think it’s fair to assume that level of support has increased just as it has nationally in the last couple of years, especially with Connecticut’s neighbor legalizing. Connecticut does not have a citizen initiative process like Massachusetts does. As such, the only way to legalize is via the Connecticut Legislature. Fortunately the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) has decided to focus quite a bit of energy on Connecticut, and recently hired one of my favorite freedom fighters out there, long time activist Sam Tracy, to lead an effort to push for legalization in Connecticut.
Sam Tracy is an alumni member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), which has always been one of my favorite organizations. Sam grew up in Connecticut and originally joined SSDP in 2009 with the goal of helping convince Connecticut’s Legislature to legalize marijuana. There’s literally no one better suited to lead the effort in Connecticut than Sam. MPP seems to be very serious about making a push in Connecticut, and I plan on supporting the effort in any way that I can and encourage others to do the same.
Marijuana has been decriminalized in Connecticut, but only up to a half ounce. People are still being arrested in Connecticut for marijuana, and if it’s determined that the person was trying to sell marijuana, they will be charged with a felony which carries a prison sentence of up to 7 years. If it’s someone’s second offense they could be looking at 20 years in prison, and will serve at least 5 years of it no matter what. No one should go to prison for a plant that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol, let alone for two decades.
Legalization is overdue in Connecticut. If you live in Connecticut, or if you live in the area for that matter, you should consider getting involved in the effort to legalize in Connecticut. There are already two legal states in the region, and hopefully with your help Connecticut can get added to the list. As I said before, Sam is a tremendous freedom fighter, but he’s going to need some help. To get involved, check out MPP’s website and let them know that you want to help!