Committee passes bill to develop plan to allow recreational mari - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Committee passes bill to develop plan to allow recreational marijuana

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(WFSB file photo) (WFSB file photo)

On Thursday, the state’s Appropriations Committee passed a bill to develop a plan to allow recreational marijuana.

Officials said the bill passed 27 to 24.

The bill goes to the General Assembly next.

While the bill only calls for the development of a plan to legalize and regulate the retail sale of marijuana, this still shows progress.

"It’s really being proactive because again with Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island is now considering it I think we need to be prepared and understand what it would encompass for the state if we were to go forward," said Republican State Rep. Melissa Ziobron.

The bill calls the secretary of the Office of Policy Management to look into the most cost-effective way to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana along with programs on substance abuse treatment, prevention, education, and awareness.

Proponents said they feel pot is simply safer than alcohol. Critics, however, said the two are not comparable and that the state stands to lose far more than it would gain by making marijuana legal.

Still, the state has left the door open to the idea for quite a while. It decriminalized small amounts of pot and allowed marijuana to treat certain medical conditions.

"If you look at other states that have done it, it's generated tremendous revenues and profits for the state," said Jason Oritz, Vice president of Minority Cannabis Business Association. 

Eight states, including neighboring Massachusetts, have legalized recreational marijuana.

"This is the furthest it's gone ever so far in Connecticut history, so with that momentum, we think we could possibly get a vote here in the full General Assembly. If the vote's in the House, it's probably the Senate that's the trickier part," Ortiz said. 

Deputy Chief of Hartford Police, Brian Foley said officers are ready for whatever lawmakers decide. He said legalizing marijuana would have a mixed impact in his department. 

"As a police department in an urban environment, it would have its pluses in that we do see some violence with marijuana sales and drug sales. The concerns for us as a police department are drug driving," said Foley. 

It remains against federal law, which for the most part has gone unenforced. However, the White House has said it may change that in the future.

In Connecticut, the bill would legalize and tax recreational marijuana. It could bring in at least $45 million per year.

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