Will Connecticut Legalize Recreational Marijuana?

Over the past few weeks, Connecticut lawmakers and citizens have been discussing the potential legalization of recreational marijuana. Connecticut already has one of the country’s best medical marijuana programs and many hope the state will also decriminalize recreational usage. Supporters of the change argue that legalization would provide access to safe cannabis, create jobs, and increase tax revenue, which could fund education, substance abuse treatment programs, and responses to the opioid epidemic.

With Democrats in control of the state legislature and Governor Lamont’s promise to make legalization a priority, Connecticut is poised to end the prohibition on recreational marijuana. While Connecticut’s previous governor, Dannel Malloy, signed medical cannabis policies into law, he opposed further legalization. A poll taken during the summer of 2018 showed that 59% of Connecticut residents support the legalization of recreational marijuana, while only 36% do not.

The bill, proposed by over 40 House Democrats, would abolish convictions for possession of marijuana and growing up to six plants. The bill does, however, criminalize “driving under the influence,” requiring road tests of drivers who are stopped by police. If a driver is found to have a THC blood level of at least 5 nanograms per milliliter or to have ingested marijuana in the past two hours, Connecticut’s under-the-influence laws will apply.

If recreational marijuana is legalized, many hope CT can more openly address and treat the problems caused by usage. Marijuana usage has been shown to impair functions such as attention, long-term memory, learning and decision-making, which can last for days after the high wears off. Dr. Jared Zelman, medical director, said, “There is a subset of people who self-treat their hyperactivity or depression with marijuana, and it becomes a feedback loop of worsening emotional well-being. So, even if this initiative becomes law, we have to be prepared to deal with the ramifications.”

With a Democratic legislature governing the state, Connecticut has a significant chance of legalizing marijuana within the next few months, and Connecticut residents will watch to see how the state will be affected by this policy change.