Pubdate: Fri, 25 Mar 2016
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2016 New Haven Register
Author: Randall Beach


As two of our forward-thinking state legislators have noted, it's 
high time we considered legalizing marijuana in Connecticut.

State Rep. Roland Lemar and state Rep. Juan Candelaria, both New 
Haven-based Democrats, are co-sponsoring a bill that would legalize 
marijuana for recreational use. Although a Quinnipiac University poll 
last year found that 63 percent of Connecticut voters support 
legalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes, the 
bill's chance of passage is not deemed likely this time around. This 
is still, after all, the "Land of Steady Habits."

But Lemar and Candelaria say we might as well be the first New 
England state to legalize; Massachusetts voters will probably be 
voting on it this November in a ballot question. Meanwhile, Colorado, 
Washington state, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., have already 
legalized the weed. (Our state doesn't allow public policy matters to 
be put on the ballot.)

Because I did some field research on this issue during a fact-finding 
visit to Colorado two years ago, I can report first-hand that the law 
didn't make people go wild in the streets or drive over their grandmothers.

Instead, it is making money for that state. In 2015, Colorado 
recorded almost $1 billion in sales, according to the state's 
Department of Revenue. This generated $135 million in tax revenue.

Wouldn't it be nice to see this happen in our state, at a time when 
we have a deficit of $220 million, with layoffs looming for state 
workers and heavy cutbacks of social programs?

Our Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is gnashing his teeth and tearing his 
hair out over having to force those cuts and layoffs, nevertheless 
opposes the legalization bill. That's inconsistent with his support 
of decriminalizing it, which we did in 2011, and making it available 
for medical treatment, which we did in 2012.

Lemar has told us it's time to wake up and smell the coffee or, in 
this case, the weed. When he announced the introduction of the bill 
last month, he said, "It's about time we got honest about what's 
happening in our communities."

Lemar was also honest about the amount of money our state would see 
from marijuana sales, compared with the larger state of Colorado: $10 
million to $20 million per year. But an Office of Fiscal Analysis 
estimate said Connecticut might reap $50.5 million annually in new 
tax revenue. Are we going to walk away from that, especially when 
residents of a neighboring state such as Massachusetts will probably 
vote to legalize this year? A Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll 
in February 2014 found that 53 percent of likely Massachusetts voters 
favor legalization and only 37 percent oppose it.

In addition, Rhode Island and Vermont legislators are considering 
legalization. Wake up! Take a whiff! Do we want people in our state 
to be driving across state lines to buy legal marijuana?

I know there will always be opposition to legalized "dope" and some 
of it comes from thoughtful groups such as the Connecticut 
Association of Prevention Professionals. They claim marijuana is a 
"gateway" drug that often leads to heroin addiction. But if this was 
happening in the states that have now had legalized marijuana for a 
few years, don't you think this would be big news, leading to calls for repeal?

We all know a lot of people who have smoked marijuana, don't we? How 
many of them went on to use heroin?

Recently, I received a letter from the Drug Policy Alliance. Writing 
in its behalf, George Soros said: "Regulating and taxing marijuana 
would save taxpayers billions of dollars in enforcement and 
incarceration costs, while simultaneously providing many billions of 
dollars in revenue annually. It also would reduce the crime, violence 
and corruption associated with illegal drug markets."

"The War on Drugs is failing us," he added. "As a parent, grandparent 
and concerned citizen of this country, I must speak out against it."

I don't see any reason to delay this legislation; inevitably, its day 
will come. State Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, recently told the 
New Haven Register's editorial board, "Ultimately it will go in that 
direction." He noted such a law will provide "significant revenue," a 
"financial windfall."


Meanwhile, another week has gone by with no perceptible progress on 
the YES/Comcast dispute over broadcasting Yankees games. (Opening Day 
is April 4.) But just to keep us happy, Comcast/Xfinity mailed to 
those of us who are still their customers a glossy 31-page brochure: 
"Your guide to making the most of your Xfinity services." I'll bet 
that cost a bundle.

Sandra Jemioto of Ansonia, who has been updating me on her efforts to 
get the YES channel restored (and has now decided to switch to 
Frontier), emailed to talk about this "large booklet listing all 
their services." She noted, "It was page 28 that really got my 
attention: 'The best seats in the house.'"

Oh yeah, that page raved: "Xfinity TV provides 24/7 sports coverage 
on all major networks." Then it listed them; the notable one missing was YES.

Those 31 pages were full of zesty ad copy such as: "Keep the family 
happy. It's easier than you think."

Apparently, it's not so easy if you like the Yankees.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom