Connecticut has faced repeated failure in its attempts to legalize Cannabis through the legislature over the last five years. Advocates recognize that the issue still faces strong opposition from both politicians and powerful groups, like the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, which has stooped to using the fact that there isn’t a dependable test for cops to detect stoned driving to lobby against legalization.
However, House Speaker-elect Matt Ritter is determined to help bring a greener future to Connecticut, even if he currently puts the state’s chances of legalizing in 2021 at 50-50.
While nearby states like New York are talking up legalization as a means to address deficits worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, Ritter has repeatedly said that legalization is not about the money. “To me, marijuana has nothing to do with revenue,” Ritter said at a virtual meeting last month with the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association. “I could care less. Every year that goes by brings in less revenue for the state. I don’t care if it brings in one dollar or $30 million. It’s completely irrelevant to me.”
It’s not like Connecticut doesn’t need the cash that can come with retail Cannabis, as the state faces a $935 million deficit for the current fiscal year. But Ritter insists his interest in legalization goes beyond a quick budget fix. He says he’s advocating for Cannabis because he doesn’t want to see anyone, especially minorities who’ve been disproportionately affected by possession arrests, go to jail for marijuana. Ritter also hopes to see expungement of past pot convictions in Connecticut.
There is some reason for hope in the Constitution State, as Democrats have increased their majorities in the state House and Senate, which means that, should Connecticut again try to legalize through the legislature, the bill would have a better chance of making it to the governor’s desk.
Ritter appears dedicated to advancing legalization in Connecticut, even if it ultimately means putting the issue before the voters. “I think it’ll be a very, very close vote in the House,” Ritter said at a press conference in November. “I want to be very clear: We will put something on the board to put to the voters of the state of Connecticut to amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana.”