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Latest pot legalization bills up for a key committee vote

April 8, 2019

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Additional legislation that could ultimately lead to legalized recreational marijuana in Connecticut advanced Monday, but it remains unclear if there’s ultimately enough support to pass a bill.

The General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee voted 21-19 in favor of a bill that outlines how marijuana use and sales would be legalized for those 21 years and older. The same panel, by much larger margins, approved bills concerning cannabis in the workplace and driving while under the influence of the drug.

Proponents expect those and several other bills moving through the General Assembly to eventually be included in one bill for the full Senate and House of Representatives to consider. Yet it’s questionable whether there will ultimately be enough support to pass marijuana legalization this year. Republicans on Monday appeared unified in their opposition, and a handful of Democrats also voted against the bill or voiced concern with the language. Democrats hold the majority in the Legislature.

State Sen. Alex Bergstein of Greenwich was one of three Democrats to vote against the main legalization bill. The mother of three teens said she’s worried about the message it sends.

“Our kids will say, ‘If it’s legal, how can it be bad?’ Because when you legalize something, you normalize it,” she said, adding how the science surrounding marijuana use and young people is “robust and alarming.” She noted short-term memory impairment, lower IQs, seizures and psychotic episodes.

“These consequences alter the brain function and cannot be reversed,” she said.

Additional lawmakers raised other concerns, including a possible uptick in driving under the influence of cannabis.

“We’re just ignoring the consequences that are going to come with this,” said Republican Rep. Doug Dubitsky of Chaplin. “Some people see dollar signs and some people see a new way to get high, quite frankly.”

Democratic Sen. Dennis Bradley, of Bridgeport, downplayed such concerns, arguing that marijuana is already being used in all types of communities in Connecticut.

“We have to be real about where we’re living today,” he said.

Three New England states — Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine — have legalized recreational marijuana.

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