The Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals and the Connecticut Chapter of Smart Approaches to Marijuana held a Legislative Office Building press conference “to inform legislators and the public regarding the health risks of legalizing retail marijuana and recent findings, such as how states that have legalized marijuana now lead the U.S. in teen use.” The message of those who spoke out against legalization was that the legislature should tread carefully before legalizing it and not to fall in love with the potential financial windfall it could bring. They warned of other costs, such as increased drug use, that could outweigh the benefits.
The president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, James Cetran, stated that Connecticut police are already “overwhelmed by the opioid crisis” in the state of Connecticut and would be unable to handle marijuana legalization. Cetran and other opponents said another objection to legalization is the lack of an industry standard for drivers under the influence of marijuana. Three of the marijuana bills introduced in the General Assembly so far this year seek to implement a DUI standard-type test for police to use to test for marijuana.
Dr. Deepak Cyril D’Souza, a professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, said his research shows that the highest rates of cannabis use among young people are in states where marijuana is legal. He stated that this is particularly dangerous because “there is accumulating evidence that the brain of adolescents and young adults (mid-20s) is more vulnerable to the effects of cannabis.” Lawmakers in favor of legalization are seeking to only give access to residents over the age of 21.
Brian Essenter, public outreach director for Connecticut NORML, said NORML’s research shows fewer young people smoke pot in Colorado now than before it was legalized. Essenter explained that NORMAL believes marijuana is not a gateway to harder drugs. When cannabis is sold in an unregulated marketplace the dealers are more concerned about keeping customers or hooking them on more profitable drugs. He said that’s not the case in a regulated marketplace because children would have less access to it.
While legalization seems to still be a toss-up issue in this year’s General Assembly it is not with the general population. The most recent poll, conducted by Sacred Heart University in October 2017, suggested that 71 percent of Connecticut residents strongly supported legalizing and taxing marijuana at that time, in the context of the state’s budget crisis.
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