It’s a steep climb for proponents of legalized marijuana in Connecticut. The legislature’s Judiciary Committee killed a legalization bill without even holding a public hearing this year, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appears unalterably opposed.
But the sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven, got a consolation prize for the movement Tuesday: A semi-official, informational hearing that he says opens a conversation about legalization.
“I think this is going to be a multi-step process,” he said. “The first thing is to start the conversation.”
Dan Pabon, a state legislator from Colorado, told a bipartisan group of interested lawmakers the recreational pot business has become nearly a billion-dollar industry in the two full years it has been legal. The product is subject to a 10 percent state sales tax, an excise tax and local taxes. Buyers must be 21 or older.
Candelaria noted that many of the legislators who participated were members of the Appropriations Committee, who are struggling to close a budget deficit. Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, the Appropriations co-chair, helped Candelaria arrange the hearing.
Pabon said Connecticut is better positioned to consider legalization than Colorado was since the state already has decriminalized possession of minor amounts and licensed producers of cannabis for medical purposes.
He said he voted against the referendum question in 2012 that led to legalization, but he volunteered to serve on a task force that implemented the system.
“At that point, I realized the world had changed in Colorado,” he said.
Rep. Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, peppered Pabon with questions. Her constituents supported legalization by a 60-40 margin in an online survey she conducted.
Pabon said marijuana has quickly become just another form of legal commerce in Colorado.
“No one can make marijuana more boring than the government, and that’s essentially what I was here to do,” he said after testifying. “At the end of the day, this is a product that can be regulated and regulated well, as we’ve demonstrated in Colorado.”