Support for Cannabis Rises in Connecticut, Faces Gubernatorial Roadblock

By Kyle Swartz

October 30, 2017

What are the odds that the Constitution State is the next to legalize cannabis?

According to a new poll from Sacred Heart University, 70.6% of Connecticut residents “strongly” or “somewhat” support the legalization and taxing of recreational marijuana.

Medicinal marijuana became legal in Connecticut in 2012 by way of Congressional vote.

In the Sacred Heart poll, younger residents leaned more towards approval than those who were older — though both groups were overall in favor. Among polled people under the age of 35, 83.2% supported legal, taxed pot. Residents over the age of 55 supported the question at a rate of 59.6%.

The level of support for cannabis in Connecticut has risen since Sacred Heart University last polled about this issue. In 2015 the school asked the same question and the legalization and taxing of cannabis garnered an approval rating of 63%.

For their latest poll, Sacred Heart University asked 56 questions to Connecticut residents over the phone and through the internet. The school received 1,000 completes during the period of Oct. 3 to 12.

The cannabis question was part of a series of questions about different methods to help alleviate Connecticut’s budget crisis. The state faces a $3.5-billion shortfall this fiscal year and the next. Of five questions about generating new sources of state revenue, legalizing and taxing cannabis received the highest approval rating at 70.6%.

By comparison, enacting tolls on Connecticut’s roads garnered an approval of 55.6%. Increasing the sales tax was supported by just 23.3%. The same question for income tax fared ever worse at 16.5%. Raising municipal/town taxes earned an approval of just 24.4%.

Obviously, the legalization of recreational cannabis will not close the multi-billion budget shortfalls by itself. But one needs only to look at the continued financial success of the industry in Colorado and other states that have already approved recreational cannabis to see the significant revenue possible with a state-run marijuana market.

Despite being a left-leaning state with a Democrat Congressional majority and governor, the hold up to legal cannabis is Connecticut’s CEO. Democrat Governor Dannel Malloy has been outspokenly opposed to pot. Traditionally Connecticut follows the legislative lead of Massachusetts, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2016. Malloy was not impressed.

“First of all, I think it’s a mistake what Massachusetts has done and other states have done,” Malloy told reporters in Hartford last year, according to the Hartford Courant. “I think we should hit the pause button and watch how it works in the region . . . I think it’s a mistake.”

The Courant further reported Malloy as saying, “The proposal that passed on the ballot in Massachusetts was written by the people who want to grow and sell marijuana. It’s an entirely different tax package, and quite frankly, will not make the kind of money available to Massachusetts that will be made available in Colorado . . . I suspect that the monies that will be generated in Massachusetts will not pay for the programs necessary to treat the people who will become problematic.”

Malloy, however, has not enjoyed high levels of approval himself, owing largely to the prolonged budget problem he inherited in 2011, but has not successfully overcome during his time in office. Malloy has announced that he will not seek reelection in 2018.

How much longer after he leaves office until Connecticut legalizes cannabis? Just look at the numbers: the east coast very likely may gain another pro-pot state soon enough.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Cannabis Regulator. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter at @kswartzz. Read his recent piece: This is Who Buys Legal Cannabis in Washington D.C.

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