Connecticut and Marijuana: Medicine or Recreation?

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BY MACKENNA LAMPHERE

Staff Reporter

On Feb. 6, Connecticut state senators revealed legislation which would legalize recreational marijuana. This comes two days after the state’s Public Health Committee listened to a testimony to use medical marijuana to treat opioid withdrawal.

The bill that was introduced by senate Democrats on Wednesday and would allow adults 21 and older to have possession of up to a one ounce of marijuana and a limited number of marijuana plants.

The goal of the bill is to make profit by making it legal to grow, sale, and tax marijuana. Democrats predict a tax on marijuana would generate up to $70 million in the first year and potentially more than $150 million annually afterward for Connecticut.

Gary L. Rose, Chair of the Department of Government at Sacred Heart University, said, “As long as recreational marijuana is illegal according to federal law, then Connecticut should not legalize this drug for recreational purposes. There is little doubt that it is a gateway drug to more serious drugs plus this is not the best way to raise revenue for a state budget.”

Senate President Martin Looney says legalized marijuana is “already on our doorstep,” referring to neighboring Massachusetts. He says the drug should be treated like other adult products — regulated and taxed.

According to the CT Post, members of the legislature’s Public Health Committee heard testimony from Brian Essenter, a medical marijuana consultant, during a public hearing on Feb. 4, about President Pro Tempore Martin Looney’s proposed bill to add opioid use disorder and withdrawal as conditions that qualify for the palliative use of marijuana.

“Getting clean is a very long, lonely and harsh journey,” Essenter said. “No one has ever died due to an overdose of cannabis.”

According to the Trump Administration it has taken the lives of more then 300,000 Americans since 2000. Over the years, it has worsened to the point where in 2017 President Donald Trump declared a national public health emergency.

Brian Hogan, Program Coordinator for the Film and Television Master’s Program at Sacred Heart, was a medical marijuana business owner in California for seven years.

“I am for legalization; I am for liberty. The government, whenever it tries to control human behavior in areas that have no victim (like pot use), oversteps its own original design. Government was invented to protect liberty, not to criminalize plants,” said Hogan.

In fact, there have been many studies that support the use of marijuana to help in treating glaucoma. As of recently, it is believed that medical marijuana could help with opioid withdrawal.

“Medical marijuana serves a useful purpose for patients and I have no problem with states learning from one another with regard to what can help people in pain. This is a totally separate issue compared to recreational marijuana,” said Rose.

Americans views of marijuana and other drugs have changed over the years.

Senior Renee Brien, a health science major said, “I feel that if recreation marijuana is legalized it may detract support for medical marijuana. I do believe, however, that Connecticut’s financial situation is absolutely horrendous and legalizing recreation marijuana could generate a lot of revenue for the state.”

According to the CT Post, legislative leaders said they feel it is way too early to say if the new recreational marijuana legislation will pass or not.

State Rep. Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, says there are too many possible unforeseen consequences if the state approves retail sales.

“Let’s have a conversation within our behavioral health industry, our schools, with our police force, to give input on a better bill,” Candelora said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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