HARTFORD, CT — With the end of the legislative session fast approaching the House and Senate have plenty of bills on their calendars, but legalizing recreational marijuana apparently isn’t one of them.
More than two dozen cannabis legalization proponents held a rally for their cause Sunday outside the state Capitol to try to recapture the momentum for legalization.
“We want a vote,” “We deserve a vote,” “Weed deserve a vote,” and “Bowls not tolls” were among the oft-repeated chants of the crowd as they marched in front of the south lawn and held signs as some passing cars on Capitol Avenue honked their car horns in support.
“We shouldn’t be treated as outlaws,” Joseph Raymond Accettullo, of Hamden, said.
Accettullo was carrying a sign saying: “Weed Deserve A Vote.”
The rally was held by Connecticut NORML, a state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
The group supports a repeal of the prohibition of marijuana at the local, state, and federal level by educating those in the community about marijuana and hemp and their potential medical and industrial use, while promoting the responsible use of marijuana by adults.
But it doesn’t look like legalizing recreational marijuana has any chance of a vote in the last few days of the current legislative session as House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, has said recently he doesn’t believe there is enough support for passage.
That means it likely won’t be called or a vote before the General Assembly session ends on midnight Wednesday, May 9.
That’s despite the fact that a bill that would begin planning for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Connecticut was sent to the House after narrowly passing the Appropriations Committee by a 27-24 vote last month.
A proponent of legalization, Rep. Josh Elliott, D-Hamden, has said the House Democratic caucus is still 17 votes shy of passage.
“Our mission with this rally is to bring attention to HB 5394 and educate the community about cannabis legalization, so they can urge their legislators to vote favorably, on this issue before the end of the session,” NORML spokesperson Avery Pessa said.
“We’re not just stoners,” Pessa said. “We’re here today to try and break that stigma. The majority of people want legalization in this state and we are hoping our voices are being heard today by the legislators.”
“I just don’t get it,” Wainwright said. “You can buy a pack of cigarettes and right on the pack it has a message saying: “warning, cigarette smoking can kill you — but it’s perfectly legal to smoke cigarettes. It’s perfectly legal to drink alcohol which also can be harmful.”
“Why is pot being signaled out to be demonized,” Wainwright asked. “I repeat — I just don’t get it.”
The General Law Committee on March 20 defeated a different bill — one that would have crafted a regulatory structure for recreational marijuana — by a vote of 11 to 6.
That bill didn’t technically legalize marijuana, but it would have legalized possession of up to an ounce and it would have allowed a person over the age of 21 to cultivate not more than six marijuana plants.
It also set up a licensing scheme for “marijuana lounges and marijuana retailers.”
Seventy-one percent of Connecticut residents support legalizing and taxing marijuana to help resolve our state’s budget issues, according to a Sacred Heart University poll conducted in October 2017.
The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated last year that Connecticut could bring in $45.4 million to $104.6 million a year if it legalizes marijuana in the same way it’s been done in Massachusetts or Colorado.
Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational pot.
In 2012, Colorado and Washington state became the first to legally allow pot for recreational purposes. Washington, D.C., and six other states, including Massachusetts and California, have since legalized marijuana — although D.C., like Vermont, does not allow recreational pot sales.
As of July 1, people in Massachusetts will be selling recreational pot. And Maine will be soon to follow, although no date has yet been set there.
Pessa said that if there is no vote on pot legalization this legislative session that NORML “will be out working hard to support legislators who will back legalization in the future in the upcoming November election.”