EDITORIAL: State legislature moving along with pot bills

EDITORIAL: State legislature moving along with pot bills

In the recent past, legislation that would have legalized marijuana for recreational use has hit a dead end in Connecticut, but that may be changing. On Monday, the judiciary committee by a slim 21-19 vote margin advanced legislation that would legalize marijuana and eradicate former convictions for possession.

There’s still a long way to go before the passage of an overall marijuana bill, but Monday’s vote has it headed in that direction.

There’s also another significant difference this time around: the support of the governor. While Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s opposition kept legalized recreational use at bay, that is no longer an obstacle with Gov. Ned Lamont, who supports it. That leaves legalizing marijuana in Connecticut a real possibility.

By doing so, Connecticut would join many other states that have gone the legalized marijuana route, including its neighbor to the north, Massachusetts. Another neighbor, Rhode Island, is considering legalization.

Each state has to make its own decision, of course, but a growing cultural acceptance creates the impression that it’s a question of when and not if marijuana becomes legal.

This is despite some major reservations — at least two of which should not be ignored. One is the rather stubborn fact that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. The other, as medical organizations have been pointing out as Connecticut deliberates, is that there has been no national study of marijuana and its effects.

The absence of a scientific consensus leaves some of the most significant concerns about marijuana open to debate and conjecture. Is it a gateway drug, leading to the use of more harmful intoxicants? Or, is it the reverse? Does marijuana keep people from taking more damaging risks? 

Connecticut’s legislative approach is trying to tackle some of the tough details. Lawmakers have been talking about handling marijuana in the workplace and on the highways, and about enforcement.

At some point the several bills concerning marijuana are expected to become a single proposal which could lead to legalized recreational use for those 21 and older.

While Connecticut may seem to be following the leader, as in following the example of other states where weed is now legal, it’s important to recognize that the state is trying to do something new. The nine states that have legalized marijuana have done so through popular vote. Connecticut is one of the states now trying to do it through carefully crafted legislation.

What we can support at the moment is the deliberative way state lawmakers are going about it.



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