Connecticut Senate Bill Would Legalize Recreational Marijuana, Block Federal Prohibition

HARTFORD, Conn. (Feb. 1, 2016) – A bill introduced in the Connecticut Senate would legalize marijuana for recreational use. Passage would also take a big step toward blocking federal cannabis prohibition in practice in the state.

Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) filed Senate Bill 11 (SB11) for introduction during the 2017 session. The legislation reads as follows:

"That the general statutes be amended to permit the retail sale of marijuana, tax such sale in the same manner as the state of Colorado and provide that revenue from such taxation goes to the General Fund."

“I would urge us to adopt that broad based legalization and also have a tax structure similar to Colorado which generates significant revenue for the state General Fund,” Looney said in a WTNH report.

SB11 would copy Colorado’s tax and regulatory structure pertaining to recreational marijuana directly. According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, it “includes the 2.9% retail and medical marijuana sales tax, 10% retail marijuana special sales tax, 15% marijuana excise tax, and retail/medical marijuana application and license fees.” This structure created a revenue windfall for the Colorado state government, as noted by a Denver Post report.

If SB11 is successful during next year’s legislative session, Connecticut would be the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the state legislature rather than the ballot initiative process. Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as SB11 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

LEGALITY

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of marijuana in Connecticut would remove a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By mostly ending state prohibition, Connecticut could essentially sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Connecticut could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition and stopping it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states earlier this month.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

WHAT’S NEXT?

SB11 will need to pass the Joint Committee on Judiciary before it can be considered by the full Senate.

Image via Matthew Hester, Flickr