HARTFORD, CT — The Judiciary Committee approved three bills Monday that would legalize possession of cannabis for adults 21 and older and expunge prior drug convictions.
The 21-19 vote in favor of the general legalization bill came after a spirited, hour-long debate. At least three Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the bill, which now heads to the Senate.
The Judiciary Committee vote on three cannabis bills Monday comes a week after the General Law Committee narrowly approved a separate bill that establishes a regulatory framework for production and sale.
Connecticut already has a medical marijuana program that serves more than 33,000 patients.
Proponents of legalization, like Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, believe most Connecticut residents are supportive of the effort.
Referring to recent polls that show that the majority of Connecticut residents favor legalization of recreational marijuana, Winfield, said: “the public is in agreement with us doing this.”
An August 2018 Quinnipiac University poll found 59 percent of voters support allowing adults in Connecticut to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Rep. Steve Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the committee with Winfield, said he felt it was important that the bill be voted out of committee “so that the General Assembly can have a full discussion on the issue.”
The bill didn’t pass without loud objection from opponents, many of whom adopted the phrase: “When you legalize, you normalize.”
The phrase was used by Republicans who cast nay votes and by Sen. Alex Bergstein, D-Greenwich, who is vice-chair of the committee. Bergstein said that as a parent of young children she couldn’t support the bill.
“As the mother of three teenagers, I can’t support legalization. Our kids will say, ‘If it’s legal, how can it be bad?’ Because when you legalize something, you normalize