Pubdate: Wed, 28 Mar 2018
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2018 The Hartford Courant
Author: Sandra Gomez-Aceves


A third committee held a public hearing on a third recreational
marijuana bill Wednesday, despite a separate bill on the controversial
issue facing bipartisan opposition last week.

The legislation up for hearing in the appropriations committee
Wednesday, H.B. 5394, calls for developing a plan for the legalization
and regulation of cannabis. Unlike the two prior bills, the third
seeks to provide substance abuse treatment, prevention, education and
awareness programs.

The bill would require the secretary of the Office of Policy and
Management to work with the chief state's attorney and the
commissioners of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Consumer
Protection and Revenue Services to develop the legalization and
regulation plan in "the most cost effective means."

The completed plan would be due by Oct. 1 and it would then be
submitted to the General Assembly.

The bill has been met with some opposition.

Deborah Schultz of Woodbury wrote to the committee that she found it
ironic that the plan to legalize marijuana lies within the one
sentence describing the purpose of the bill "while at the same time"
providing substance abuse treatment and prevention programs.

"The bill's own language attests to the fact that the passing of it
will bring harm to our citizens. This is the height of immorality and
is unconscionable," Schultz wrote.

Donald Shubert, president of Connecticut Construction Industries
Association, wrote the association was opposed to marijuana
legalization "because the risks associated with legalizing marijuana
and introducing a substance that can cause unquantifiable impairment
in the construction industry far outweigh any intended benefits of
this bill."

Shubert said the legislation would leave employers responsible for
inherently dangerous and imperceptible situations that they cannot

During the hearing Sen. Cathy Osten, an appropriation committee
co-chair, said an issue with regulating and legalizing marijuana is
that while the state could enact legislation to prohibit employers
from drug testing employees for cannabis and penalizing them, it would
not include federal commercial drivers' licensing or other federal
employees and jobs.

"That is part of the problem because it does not lead us to come to a
real resolution. We still have to work with the federal government on
some of these issues," Osten said.

Several advocates showed up to the Capitol for a third time Wednesday.
The group of included Norman Plude, a man facing four felony charges
and 60 years in prison for growing marijuana in his Seymour home, and
Cody Roberts who said cannabis has saved his life on several occasions.

"I am a father, moderate conservative, and registered Republican,"
Scott Hawkins, a resident of Hamden, wrote to the committee. "This
bill will move our state forward in developing a comprehensive
approach to the legalization and regulation of adult use cannabis."

Hawkins argued the tax revenue from legal cannabis would assist
Connecticut as it faces financial challenges and wrote that the
legalization would allow law enforcement to place their resources on
tackling the state's opioid epidemic.

"The voters of this state have expressed a broad and deep readiness
for legal marijuana," Hawkins wrote.

Last week, the general law committee rejected the first bill that got
a public hearing, H.B. 5458, by an 11 to 6 vote, with Republicans and
Democrats joining to defeat the measure.

The vote by the general law committee was considered the best chance
for a legal marijuana bill to make it out of a legislative committee
for consideration by the General Assembly.

The second bill, S.B. 487, was raised by the judiciary committee and
was backed by Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, who said the
legislation was designed to encourage small business development and
promote diversity. Looney said marijuana should be taxed and regulated
like alcohol.

The judiciary committee has not voted on the bill and has until April
4 to do so. However, no committee has voted in favor of legalization
and the matter has failed during the past two years without any formal

"Here, before, there has not been a consensus sufficient to pass that
legislation," said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last week, when asked if he
thought the recreational marijuana legislation would pass this year.
"I haven't heard anyone ringing a bell and saying they have the votes."
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MAP posted-by: Matt