Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17, and is waiting for a vote in the House Wednesday evening.
After a debate that stretched for hours on the Senate floor, Connecticut Examiner spoke with several legislators to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, voted in support of the legislation.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How did you decide to support the bill?
I’ve been looking at this issue for a number of years, and I’ve always said that, should we get to a vote, I would vote for it.
I really want to see this bill pass because I think we can regulate what is out there. As an example, sometime in the last few years, many people in New Haven became sick because someone laced the marijuana with fentanyl. It’s important for us to be able to actually take control of the product that is out there, and it’s not just fentanyl, there’s always going to be another drug that people use to lace these products. For me, it’s about safety and handling a lot of the issues concerning the safety of what is going on with the products.
How confident are you in the specifics of the bill?
I think there have to be some changes, especially with the fee structure for our current medical marijuana providers. They’re on the losing end of being able to participate, and they’ve already been good business partners with the state. I’m hoping that will be addressed in the next legislative session so we’re not shutting out current businesses.
While you ended up supporting the bill, were there any arguments made by opponents of the bill that you found persuasive?
I understand people’s position on it. Some people are very concerned about gateway drugs, but I worked in corrections for 21 years and saw people that were related to this situation, and I don’t perceive marijuana as a gateway drug per se. I think that there are people who have a predilection toward substance abuse having nothing to do with starting out smoking marijuana. I think there’s far more danger if you wanted to talk about a gateway drug in alcohol, so that was not persuasive to me, having dealt with people who have had substance abuse issues that ended up incarcerated.
What did you hear from constituents about this issue?
I have heard mostly, please get this passed, we need to move in the direction that our neighboring states are moving in. I have some constituents who are concerned about the gateway drug aspects of things, but the preponderance of people I’ve heard from were for passing this legislation. I’ve been for this my entire time in the legislature, I had looked at this from all different sides and heard from many constituents that thought this bill should pass.