Citing Economic Benefits and Public Opinion, Senate President Looney Provides Testimony in Support of Legalization and Regulation of Marijuana
Citing the economic benefits and growing public support, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) today provided testimony to the Judiciary Committee in support of his proposed legislation, Senate Bill 11, An Act Concerning the Legalization and Taxation of the Retail Sale of Marijuana.
“Marijuana prohibition has lasted 80 years,” said Senator Looney in written testimony. “Yet, it has been just as much of a failure as America’s short-lived experiment with alcohol prohibition. It is time we take the same rational, common-sense approach to marijuana, as we did with alcohol: regulating and taxing it.”
Senate Bill 11 proposes a structure for taxation of marijuana and marijuana products inspired by the approach to legalization and taxation taken in Colorado. The Connecticut bill would impose a special 23.65 percent sales tax on all marijuana and marijuana products at retail. This special sales tax would be in addition to, not in replacement of, the regular state sales tax of 6.35 percent, and would amount to a combined effective sales tax at retail of 30 percent.
“Legalization can also help Connecticut’s economy,” testified Senator Looney. “It is estimated that, in 2015, the legal marijuana industry in Colorado created more than 18,000 new full-time jobs and generated $2.4 billion in economic activity. A recent report projects that, by 2020, the legal cannabis market will create more than a quarter of a million jobs nationally. And these jobs will come with the protections workers deserve, from minimum wage and overtime regulations to unemployment insurance and Social Security.”
Based on an Office of Fiscal Analysis report on Colorado’s policy, the taxation of marijuana would generate significant revenue.
“I estimate that as drafted, Senate Bill 11 would raise approximately $18.5 million in the first six months of collections, $83.4 million in the following full year of collections, and $135 million in the third year from these taxes,” testified Senator Looney.
There is popular support for legalization in Connecticut. A March 11, 2015 poll by Quinnipiac University found that 63 percent of Connecticut voters support the legalization of marijuana. The support for legalization is not partisan or geographic. Senator Looney also highlighted a report produced by the conservative libertarian Cato Institute titled “Dose of Reality: The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations”.
The Cato Institute reviewed data regarding, among other things, marijuana usage, suicide rates, treatment admissions, crime, traffic fatalities, school suspensions and expulsions, standardized test scores, home prices, unemployment rates and correction and police expenditures in the states of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska following legalization.
The report found that, “the absence of significant adverse consequences is especially striking given the sometimes dire predictions made by legalization opponents.” Regarding usage specifically, the report found that “state marijuana legalizations have had minimal effect on marijuana use and related outcomes.” The report also found that available data from Colorado and Alaska on marijuana use from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed no obvious effect of legalization on youth marijuana use.
“Our region is rapidly moving toward regulating marijuana—Maine and Massachusetts voters approved ballot initiatives in November and are expected to have stores open next year,” said Senator Looney. “Rhode Island, Vermont and New Jersey’s legislatures are all seriously considering enacting similar measures either this year or next. We need to make sure that Connecticut is not left behind as our neighbors move forward with common-sense marijuana policy.”
Senate Bill 11 proposes the following regulations:
Adult Possession Limits
- Adults who are 21 or older and would be allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana; and
- Individuals cultivating marijuana at home would be allowed to possess up to five marijuana plants per adult for personal use
State Regulation and Licensing
- Provides for five types of regulated marijuana businesses: retailers, lounges (in those municipalities that license them), cultivation facilities, product manufacturers, and laboratories
- The bill requires background checks for all owners, officers, managers, contractors, employees and other support staff of marijuana businesses
- The Department of Consumer Protection would develop comprehensive rules, including security, laboratory testing, packaging, record keeping, and inspections and restricting advertising
- Municipalities could enact regulations and licensing requirements, limit the number of marijuana establishments, or ban the businesses altogether
- Marijuana lounges could only operate in municipalities that permit such lounges
Employers and Private Property
- Landlords could prohibit the smoking and growing of marijuana at their rentals.
- Property owners could prohibit the consumption and display of marijuana on their property.
- Employers would not have to accommodate employees under the influence, nor their possession of marijuana at work
Prohibited Conduct and Penalties
- Smoking marijuana in public would be an infraction and punishable by a civil fine of up to $90
- Sets a 5 nanogram per milliliter limit for driving under the influence of marijuana
- The Department of Consumer Protection could suspend or revoke the registration of a marijuana establishment if it commits multiple or serious violations of the law or regulations.
Existing Medical Marijuana Program
- Continues the existing medical marijuana program
- Currently licensed dispensaries will get priority in the new market