Lead photo via Facebook user Dan Drew
There’s still almost an entire year before Connecticut residents head back to the polls and elect a new governor, but with even minor local elections holding increased weight in our drastically polarized political landscape, the race in Connecticut is already heating up.
Tonight, in the gubernatorial race’s first public debate, four leading candidates will join hosts from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Policy (NORML) to give voters a look at the future of cannabis in the Nutmeg State.
As all four candidates prepare their straightest poker face for the inevitable “I tried it in college, but only once” responses at this evening’s debate, Middletown, Conn. Mayor and early leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Drew has taken a different approach to discussing his relationship with marijuana. Last night, he sent a campaign email telling supporters and reporters alike that, if elected, Drew would legalize adult-use cannabis and move to create a system for retail sales.
According to Daily Kos, Drew’s email highlighted the $100 million in estimated tax revenue from a legal weed retail system. He also described ways in which legalization would help protect Connecticut’s low-income and minority communities from unfair policing, as well as how recreational weed could alleviate issues pertaining to the nationwide opioid epidemic. Drew included other classic arguments for ending prohibition in the email, too.
“By regulating our marijuana markets and ending a lengthy prohibition, Connecticut can create a new agricultural sector in the Connecticut River Valley,” the candidate wrote in the email. “The state can protect the tens of thousands of Connecticut cannabis consumers from tainted products and unknown potencies. Our government can stop the destructive drug policies that disproportionately impact both poor and minority communities. Legalizing marijuana will help raise revenue to fix Connecticut’s budget crisis.”
With neighboring Maine and Massachusetts already passed the voter-approval stage and on their way to recreational sales, Connecticut is in an increasingly tenuous position when it comes to pot. If voters reject Drew and his legalization plans, millions in local tax revenue could fly out the window to cities like Boston and Portland. Conversely, if voters act to embrace cannabis and the legislature moves quickly to market in 2018, Connecticut could potentially outpace the North East’s first two green rushes, with Massachusetts and Maine both continuing to struggle down bumpy roads to regulation.
According to the Hartford Courant, Drew will be joined at tonight’s debate by three other candidates, Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, former state Senator Jonathan Harris and Afghanistan war veteran Micah Welintukonis. And while none of the other candidates have explicitly come out with a public opinion on cannabis, Srinivasan and Harris have both spent time in the state legislature, where multiple attempts to legalize the drug for recreational use have failed over the past two years.
Even as legislators watched legalization bills crumple up and die over the past two years, most pundits agree that those proposals were doomed from the start, with current Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy saying that he would veto any legislation to end cannabis prohibition. Gov. Malloy is not eligible for re-election in 2018.
Connecticut’s first cannabis-themed gubernatorial debate will take place tonight at 7pm EST and will be moderated by attorney Aaron Romano, a trial lawyer who serves as the in-house counsel for Connecticut’s NORML branch. The debate will be livestreamed on the Connecticut NORML Facebook page.
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