Rhode Island & Connecticut lawmakers consider legalizing marijuana in fear of losing tax revenue to neighboring states

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The legal retail of marijuana in Massachusetts begins July 1.

That’s prompted Rhode Island and Connecticut lawmakers to once again consider legislation to regulate the sale of recreational marijuana.

Similar legislation failed in both states last year.

Sam Tracey, with the advocacy group Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, says Connecticut could lose millions of dollars in tax revenue to neighboring states if it doesn’t allow the retail sale of marijuana.

“Massachusetts, Maine and now Vermont have moved forward with this policy and are regulating marijuana like alcohol. Very soon people are going to be able to drive over the Massachusetts border and purchase marijuana legally if they are over 21. So Connecticut, if we stay with our current course of inaction, we are losing all of the tax revenue to Massachusetts.”

State Representative Joshua Elliot, a Connecticut Democrat, agreed, saying, “People can take a 20-minute drive across the border buy their recreational cannabis and come back to the state, no repercussions, because it’s been decriminalized here. And all that’s happening is that marijuana has been de facto legalized in Connecticut but we are losing out on the revenue.”

Elliot says allowing the retail sale of marijuana in Connecticut is also an issue of social justice.

Representative Steven Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat who serves on the Judiciary Committee, says lawmakers have heard testimony saying marijuana is less addictive than three other substances that are allowed to be sold in the state.  

“Those being opioids, alcohol and tobacco. All of which we have found a regulatory structure for. ”

Several legislative committees are looking into possible legislation. Last year, efforts to legalize recreational marijuana failed in Rhode Island amid opposition from groups including law enforcement and the addiction recovery community.

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