Photo via Dannel Malloy
As part of a proposal to reconcile at least part of the state’s immense budget deficit, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy appears to have finally ditched his long-standing opposition to cannabis legalization.
According to 50 States of Blue, Gov. Malloy released a budget proposal for the coming years on Monday, with recommendations including tax hikes, increased highway tolls, and more in an effort to slow or solve the Nutmeg State’s annual budget shortfall of over $240 million. But in addition to those front and center suggestions, Malloy also included a section in the report titled “Alternatives to the Governor’s Recommended Revisions” — a list of extra means of raising tax revenue for state legislators to consider, and included on that list is an option to “Legalize and tax the recreational use of marijuana.”
Connecticut has had trouble balancing its books for years now, and even as neighboring states in the Northeast continued to buck prohibition and legalize the sweet leaf, Gov. Malloy has continually rejected comprehensive cannabis reform, going as far as to call Massachusetts’ decision to tax and sell adult-use cannabis “a mistake.”
Like every outdated point of view though, there is always a tipping point, and Connecticut’s continued financial woes appear to be Malloy’s last straw on legalization. While the Governor did not include cannabis reform in his top-line suggestions, the concession to include legal weed as a legislative option suggests that if a cannabis legalization bill were to pass through the state legislature, Malloy wouldn’t stand in the way and veto that decision — a stark contrast from his past stance.
As recently as last year, Connecticut Democrats suggested legalization as a partial budget fix, even introducing legislation to join Massachusetts and Maine in New England’s impending green rush. But before that bill could even make it past a committee vote, the legislation died as it became clear that Malloy would block any successful cannabis bill.
Now, as Governor Malloy and state officials come to terms with the fact that no one adjustment will make up for the state’s immense debt, an estimated $100 million in cannabis tax over the next three years is starting to sound a lot more palatable, even if the Governor still isn’t ready to openly advocate just yet.
“While these alternatives are NOT part of the Governor’s proposed revisions, it is instructive, and perhaps helpful to the legislature, to identify some options that they might also consider in achieving a balanced budget,” Malloy’s recently released report states.
Even if Connecticut legislators don’t make good on Gov. Malloy’s legal weed concession, the Northeastern state could see cannabis reform soon. A new governor will be elected at the end of 2018, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Drew has already put marijuana legalization towards the top of his policy list.
And with a recent poll from Sacred Heart University reporting that over 70% of Connecticut voters support legalizing the controversial plant, that 420-friendly guarantee might be all that Drew needs to take the Governor’s seat in November.