Three Candidates For Governor Of Connecticut Support Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

Three candidates for governor of Connecticut came out in support of legalization last night at a special cannabis-themed debate. Yale welcomed the group of 2018 hopefuls at the event hosted by the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Yale's branch of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP).

"Yes, I will sign a bill to legalize it,'' said Middletown Mayor Dan Drew (D), who thinks it's time for the state to regulate the illicit industry. "There are an awful lot of people who use cannabis for a variety of reasons….Wouldn’t it be better if we control the process on the front end, if we were able to regulate it?"

Fellow Democrat and former State Senator Jonathan Harris agreed. He also added that there's never been more urgency to legalize recreational marijuana since prohibition is being repealed in neighboring states.

“We gotta realize it’s here and I’m not just talking black market,’’ said Harris. “I’m talking about our neighbor to the north in Massachusetts. [And] it will probably be in Rhode Island."

But aside from simple pragmatics, Harris stressed that legalization is "good public policy" because it will allow the Constitution State to spend its limited resources more wisely, and it will curb racial disparities in the criminal justice system, where poor people and minorities are over-represented among convicted cannabis offenders.

Meanwhile, Micah Welintukonis — an army veteran from Coventry — pitched a more hands-off approach at the event.

"I'm for pot,'' Welintukonis said during his opening remarks. "If you want to smoke pot at your own home, go ahead. If you want to grow some plants at your own house, grow some plants. I really don't care.''

No Consensus on Cannabis Legalization

But not everyone was in favor or marijuana reform. Organizers said they invited most of the 2018 candidates, but some declined due to scheduling conflicts while others failed to respond to the invitation. That doesn't necessarily mean they oppose legalization, but their positions remain unclear for now.

And one candidate spoke out against legalization at the event. State Rep. Prasad Srinivasan (R) said he supports Connecticut's medical marijuana program, but he has reservations about recreational legalization because police don't yet have an accurate method to screen for high drivers.

“Do we have a way to monitor THC levels?’ Srinivasan said. “Not in 2017. We have to look the implications.”

He also poured cold water on the idea that legalization would cure the state's financial woes.

“That’s one myth that we have: that this huge, huge war chest is going to open up the moment we legalize," added Srinivasan, who later complimented the prominently pro-legalization audience for not booing during his remarks.

So in total, three-quarters of the candidates who showed up to the event said they would legalize marijuana if Connecticut voters elected them to succeed Governor Dannel Malloy (D), the anti-legalization incumbent who says he won't seek a third term in the 2018 election.

h/t Hartford Courant

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