Hearing held on legalizing recreational marijuana - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Hearing held on legalizing recreational marijuana

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Two state representatives from New Haven scheduled a hearing about legalizing marijuana for recreational use on Tuesday.

Reps. Juan Candelaria and Toni Walker co-hosted an informational hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

"We should seriously be considering the decriminalization of this substance for recreational use and capitalize on the many financial benefits it would bring the state coffers," Candelaria said in a statement.

It was a unique approach to a controversial issue, as many people who support medical marijuana do not agree it should be legalized for recreational use.

Candelaria and Walker said the state made changes to an existing law in 2012 to create a marijuana program that allows for medical usages. In 2011, it decriminalized small amounts. However, they said legalization has not been approved.

"If we won't talk about it - it will continue to stay underground and it will still be a choice. It will still be something that will cause a lot of kids to gravitate towards. We need to have better conversations about alcohol, marijuana, tobacco," Walker said.

Some lawmakers in favor of the process, along with public safety experts, participated in Tuesday's hearing. A guest speaker from Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, was also in attendance.

UConn student Jennie Purdon was one of many who spoke on Tuesday, and said she feels it should be legal.

"I am a daily cannabis user, but I am also a full-time student with a job. I am on the board of three student organizations and have a 3.6 GPA," Purdon said.

Colorado State Rep. Dan Pabon voted against a proposal to make it legal in his state at first, but after seeing crime rates drop, and the money it generated, he said "It can generate hundreds of millions of dollars and provide more schools, bridges, buildings, whatever a state may need."

It may come at a cost. Marijuana use is on the rise among teens. A federal study showed it was at 7 percent in 2006, and it has nearly doubled.

As for deadly crashes involving marijuana, they are more than twice as high, with 37 in 2006 to 94 in 2014.

"This is not the same pot people smoked in the 1970's. This is a genetically modified drug, seven times stronger," said Lisa Ott, who is against legalizing recreational marijuana.

"Star of the football team, athletes, all of those people take it in high school and they are okay somewhat, but later on in life it starts to fry their brain," said Danielle Ott.

If the bill were to pass, it would only be legal for adults, but many said it sends a message to children that adults think it is okay, so they would think the same.

Would you like to see recreational marijuana legalized in Connecticut? Vote in our poll here.

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