The general assembly’s judiciary committee will take up several bills today on proposed laws involving the use and possession of marijuana include medicinal use. In 2007, the legislature passed a medical marijuana bill but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Rell. Things have obviously changed since then. Not only does new Gov. Dannel Malloy support reforms, he has introduced two bills of his own.
In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, voters in Connecticut support 79 – 17 percent allowing adults to use marijuana if a doctor prescribes it for medical reasons. Support is over 70 percent among every group in the survey. Connecticut voters also support 65 – 32 percent decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Support ranges from 53 – 45 percent among Republicans to 70 – 27 percent among Democrats, from 70 – 28 percent among voters 18 to 34 years old to 58 – 38 percent among voters over 65 years old. No group is opposed.
There are two issues being considered today. One would decriminalize small amounts of pot and treat it more like an infraction punishable by a fine instead of a crime. Erik Williams, executive director of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (CT NORML) says decriminalization makes sense on several levels. “The monetary impact of decriminalization is substantial. The numbers are out there. The amount of time and energy spent by police processing paperwork for small amounts are better spent elsewhere,” he said. “Then there’s the human cost. Thousands of students lose their Pell grants every year because they had a seed or a joint. We have an unemployment rate of about 10 percent. Having a criminal record can destroy lives.”
The judiciary committee will also consider a bill that would permit marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Williams and other backers of the bill say there are some diseases for which only marijuana can ease horrible pain. “This is also about freedom,” he said. “No one wants the government coming between very sick people and their doctors.”
Williams says it appears bills addressing both decriminalization and medicinal use have the votes to pass. Gov. Malloy has submitted his own bills on the two issues.