Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana into law on Tuesday, after the state legislature passed the legislation last week. Effective July 1, possession of limited amounts of marijuana will be legal for people aged 21 and over, and legal sales of the drug are expected to begin next summer. The House passed the legislation 76-62, with one Republican voting in support, and 12 Democrats opposing.
One of those 12 Democrats is State Rep. Christine Goupil of Clinton, who defeated Republican John Hall by just 274 votes last November. The district had previously been represented by Republican Jesse MacLachlan for six years. The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Goupil about how she came to the decision to vote no.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How easy of a decision was this vote for you?
This was my toughest piece of legislation to tackle this year. I spent a significant amount of time engaging with the community at large, law enforcement, human services, and youth groups. I did a survey with the community ,and we were fairly evenly split on legalization. In trying to remove my own personal views and really just look at the legislation and how it would impact my district, I found this one very challenging.
What were some of your biggest concerns?
My concerns stem back from being First Selectman in Clinton and engaging with police departments, and thinking about what this bill would mean for overtime and training costs. The legislation touches on drug recognition experts and the need for them, but ultimately, the funding isn’t there to train them. There’s going to be revenue through the legislation, but there’s no direct mechanism to fund drug recognition experts, and that’s something I would like to see changed in the next session through amendments. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration put out a robust document with an assessment of how this has gone in other states, and I don’t necessarily think this legislation took all of those recommendations into consideration.
If that funding had been in the bill, would you have been able to support it?
I think I still would have needed to see the public health component addressed in terms of education and prevention. There is funding, and I do appreciate the increased revenue to youth and family services in towns, but I think it would have made more sense for public health to be immediately addressed for prevention and education. I think I was a no early on, and I really was hoping to get somewhere I could potentially be comfortable voting yes, but I can’t say I was going to be a yes if those things were included.
Were you able to share your concerns with leadership?
I will commend leadership for sitting down and making some specific amendments to the bill that I had advocated for, like making sure edibles were not marketable for children and would be individually wrapped and sealed so little fingers couldn’t get to them. We also had discussions on capping THC and I do understand why if the cap is too low, the black market could still exist. We’re ultimately trying to create a safer product that still is desirable.
While you ended up voting no, are there parts of this bill you appreciate?
I’m very supportive of the idea that people should be able to integrate back into their communities and will no longer be penalized for something they did seven to 10 years ago. I was also very supportive of Clean Slate, so I appreciate those parts of the bill. Ultimately, I still feel as though a little more work needed to be done on the public health and law enforcement components.
How do you think legal recreational cannabis will affect your district?
I will be very curious to see whether regulatory bodies vote to allow stores. I was on the Clinton Planning & Zoning Commission when we looked at dispensaries, and Clinton did allow for it, but it was extremely controversial. I expect that if anybody is interested in a store in Clinton, there will be robust conversation related to it. My community has gotten a lot of funding through grants to address other areas such as opioids and vaping, so I think they are very well-versed on the impacts of abusing any drugs, and ultimately want to make sure they have the best interest of the community in mind.