The marijuana legalization effort in Connecticut is running out of time, as this year’s legislative session winds to a close this week. Lawmakers have until May 9 to pass a bill pending in the House of Representatives.
But that doesn’t seem likely, according to local media. Both the House and the Senate have other bills more likely to gain lawmakers’ attention.
Last month, the House Appropriations Committee voted 27-24 to support the measure and send it to the full House. If passed, the bill alone would not technically legalize cannabis. But it would direct several state agencies to form a plan to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana in the state. The law also includes provisions for the creation of substance abuse prevention, treatment, and awareness programs.
At that time, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz did not commit to bringing the measure up for a vote by the full body.
“While the bill was passed by the Appropriations Committee,” he said, “it is still early in the process and I expect we will have continued discussions within the caucus before it can be determined if it will be called for a vote in the House.”
However, the Speaker did indicate that the legislature needs to act on the matter.
“This is one of those tough crossover issues that brings both a social and economic aspect with it, and with a number of states in the region having either already approved legalization and regulation, or are trending this way, it’s clearly something that deserves to be looked at,” he said.
Activists Demonstrate at State Capitol
In an effort to spur action on the legislation, cannabis advocates demonstrated at the Capitol in Hartford on Sunday. At the rally, protestors chanted slogans and carried signs with messages including “Cannabis Heals” and “Weed Deserve a Vote.”
The state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) organized the demonstration. Avery Pessa, a spokesperson for Connecticut NORML, said the activists hoped the legislature makes the bill a priority.
“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,” Pessa said.
The activists also hope to change people’s perceptions about cannabis.
“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.”
Keith Wainwright of Stratford was one of the demonstrators at the rally. He believes that the legalization of marijuana is a matter of fairness.
“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 singled out to be demonized?” Wainwright asked. “I repeat—I just don’t get it.”