The House of Representatives is expected to vote Wednesday on legislation that would legalize and commercialize recreational marijuana usage, a move scheduled roughly a week after an original version of the bill made headlines for a controversial provision granting a single individual a backdoor around the regulatory process.
Like Republicans, moderate Democrats understand legalized weed isn’t the financial panacea their bosses promised. Sure, revenues are expected to reach $55 million by FY26, but by FY29 the bulk of that money—75 percent—would be diverted away from the General Fund into a “social equity and innovation fund.” What’s more, that fund will be largely governed by an unelected Social Equity Council that will not only control that money in perpetuity but also manage who can apply for priority licenses. It’s a blow to transparency.
If the last week’s version of the bill is any indication, you can expect well-heeled individuals and high-powered lobbyists to game the system. Meanwhile, our roads won’t improve because of this. Or schools, either. Despite what they say, legalized weed won’t improve our cities or our state.
Unfortunately, we’ll be left to deal with problems like those seen in Colorado, where legalization of marijuana led to increased traffic deaths, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations. Such problems will be exacerbated here by a black market that will flourish due to the three layers of taxes on retail sales.
It’s disturbing that the Social Equity Council won’t feature experts in public health, addiction services, or mental health. Law enforcement won’t be represented, either. That’s akin to what we saw during legislative hearings on the topic, where representatives from the state’s Department of Public Health and its Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services were notably absent. We can only assume it’s because Democrats who desperately want legalization—and the revenue—have punted on the critical issue of potency limits.
They did, however, take the time to handcuff police. It would be illegal to smoke cannabis while driving, but if an officer sees someone smoking he couldn’t pull over the driver. Likewise, if an officer pulls over a vehicle full of teenagers and smells cannabis smoke, the officer wouldn’t have probable cause to search the car for drugs even though it’s illegal for those under 21 to use the drug.
It’s a continuation of a radical trend from Democrats, who are intent on eroding what’s left of our state’s criminal justice system. Over the last five months, they fought efforts to tackle the juvenile car theft crisis and instead focused their efforts on automatically erasing criminal records.
Access to the industry will be largely governed by an unelected body of 15 called the Social Equity Council, amongst whom are no representatives from the fields of public health, mental health and addiction services or law enforcement. They’re able to govern who can apply for priority licenses, and then administer the Social Equity Innovation Fund that the excise tax pumps money into in perpetuity. We already saw one attempted work-around of the Social Equity Council by a well-connected millionaire from Watertown with deep pockets and high-powered lobbyists.
Tell Governor Lamont and legislative democrats that marijuana legalization isn't an emergency and certainly shouldn't be passed during a special session.
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