HARTFORD — State Representatives Ben McGorty (R-122nd) and Jason Perillo (R-113th) joined their Republican colleagues recently in opposing a marijuana legalization proposal they believe carries grave consequences for health and public safety in the state of Connecticut.
The bill would establish government regulations for the commercial sale of marijuana, while removing criminal penalties for possession and eliminating cannabis possession as probable cause for police in a traffic stop.
In a 76-62 vote with most Republicans and a dozen Democrats standing opposed, the House’s action comes just one day after the Governor threatened a veto unless the bill guaranteed more social equity in future marijuana sales.
McGorty and Perillo argue that the administration and majority lawmakers were more motivated by satisfying industry advocates and other special interests as they raced to amend and pass the nearly 300-page bill.
The administration’s proposal, Senate Bill 888, had never received a public hearing in front of the joint Public Health Committee, even as the Connecticut State Medical Society provided testimony warning of the impact of marijuana use on brain development in children and young adults.
While the administration dispatched several officials to testify in support of legalization before the Judiciary Committee, proponents provided no explanation for how state-level legalization could work while marijuana remains a schedule-one controlled substance at the federal level.
“As lawmakers, we swear an oath to our constituents and to Connecticut that we will uphold and protect the constitution. I view this bill as a direct breach of my obligations as an officeholder and not one that I would ever support,” said McGorty, who serves as an Assistant Republican Leader in the House. “The majority party has continued to steadily chip away at the tenets of law and order in an empty Capitol building, while emboldening and empowering those who already freely break the law with little to no consequences. Republicans have repeatedly extended opportunities for our more moderate colleagues to see the light and join us in standing up for safe communities, but those calls continue to go largely unanswered.”
“Regardless of where you stand on the marijuana debate, everyone must know that the authors of this legislation had other intentions in mind with proposal,” said Perillo. “We were warned by public health experts, law enforcement, and even legislators and attorneys from other states who are now dealing with the public health and safety consequences of legalization. There are Republicans who were open to moving in this direction, but this particular bill raised too many red flags.
Continued Perillo, “House Republicans made attempts to address special interest concerns, reduce the TCH concentration limits in marijuana products, raise the legal age to 25, and address some issues raised by the law enforcement community. Unfortunately, Democrats refused to work with us to improve the bill. Clearly, this wasn’t about legalizing recreational marijuana – it was about benefiting big business and a few well-connected individuals who will profit from an industry that continues to pose a risk to the public if not properly regulated.”
After signing it on June 22nd, Governor Lamont issued a statement praising the bill. “This measure is comprehensive, protects our children and the most vulnerable in our communities, and will be viewed as a national model for regulating adult-use cannabis,” Lamont said.
The first provisions of the bill will take effect on July 1st, 2021, when possession of up to 5 ounces of cannabis among adults age 21 and over becomes legal.
It is unclear how new state law enforcement procedures will comply with federal drug policy, as marijuana still remains a federally-classified Schedule I controlled substance.
Click here to listen to Rep. Perillo’s House floor remarks on the marijuana bill.