Bills that would legalize marijuana for recreational use in Connecticut are considered a long shot by most political observers, but opponents want to make sure it stays that way.
That’s why the Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals held a press conference Monday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
“Marijuana is not a harmless drug,” John Daviau, executive director of CAPP, said.
Daviau, a community psychologist, was the main speaker at the press conference. He said they don’t want politicians to be lured into believing that legalizing recreational marijuana would be “a financial boon” for Connecticut during a time when the state’s facing a $1.2 billion deficit over the next 18 months.
Raising revenue is one of the main selling points that proponents are using to try to get a hearing on recreational marijuana legislation.
Candelaria concedes the chances of the General Assembly passing recreational marijuana legislation this session aren’t good.
“But I would like to start the discussion,’’ Candelaria said in a phone interview. “If we can’t get it done this year, maybe we can get it done in the next two or three years. It’s a process.’’
Candelaria said he is planning to hold an “informational hearing” in early April “so that both sides of the issue can come together” and discuss the pros and cons of passing recreational marijuana legislation.
Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island are considering full-scale legalization.
Lawmakers from Massachusetts traveled to Colorado to study that state’s marijuana industry, and Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana through ballot measures, a process not used in Connecticut.
Connecticut established a medical marijuana program in 2012 and decriminalized small amounts of the substance in 2011. But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signaled that’s as far as he’s willing to go on the issue.
“I’m not in favor of legalizing marijuana,” Malloy said earlier this month.
However, what’s going on around Connecticut concerning recreational marijuana worries those who are opposed to legalization.
“People addicted to marijuana are more than three times more likely to be addicted to heroin,” CAPP President Kristin Sandler said. “This reinforces how important it is that we focus on drug policies that protect our young people and the overall health of our state.”
Marijuana is linked to serious heath and development risks, said Sandra Carbonari, a pediatrician and the immediate past president of CAPP.
Both Daviau and Carbonari said marijuana use in young people results in a decline in graduation rates and IQ levels, as well as increases in mental illness, traffic deaths, and heroin addiction.
“Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance and the younger the user the more likely the person will become dependent. Officials should be doing all they can to minimize access to this dangerous drug,” Carbonari said.
Two state representatives, Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, and Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, were honored by CAPP for their efforts to fight substance abuse in Connecticut.