After the successful passage of legalized marijuana in Maine and Massachusetts in 2016, more states in New England are considering following suit.
Lawmakers in both Rhode Island and Connecticut have either introduced or plan to introduce legislation that would allow for the sale and use of recreational marijuana.
Part of the issue is simply keeping up. Recreational marijuana possession already is legal in Maine and Massachusetts. Retail sales are expected to start in both states by early 2018. They follow a handful of states who also have legal recreational marijuana outside New England: California, Nevada, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.
New England States Consider Marijuana Legalization
Given that recreational marijuana possession now is legal in Maine and Massachusetts, officials in neighboring New England states have become concerned about potentially losing millions of dollars in revenue for both local business and the state government.
State Sen. Martin Looney has filed a bill making recreational marijuana legal in Connecticut, arguing that it could bring in $50 million a year for the state if regulated and controlled. Given that the state faces a shortfall of $1.5 billion in the state budget, Looney argues the money could prove significant to balancing the state’s books.
Also, “There seems to be a national trend moving in that direction,” Looney said of legalization, according to the Wall Street Journal.
However, Gov. Dannell Malloy opposes the measure. He argues that state lawmakers should not promote the use of marijuana.
“I’m hopeful that we might get him to change his mind,” Looney told the Journal, “especially given the fact that it could be a significant revenue source.”
Republican lawmakers in the state also have vowed to oppose the measure.
Two state lawmakers in Rhode Island want to make the state the next one to legalize recreational marijuana, and they hope to do so through the legislature rather than with a ballot measure.
The two Democrats, Sen, Joshua Miller and Rep. Scott Slater, said part of the reason behind their plan is that they don’t want Rhode Island residents simply driving to Massachusetts to buy marijuana, cutting their state out of collecting fees and taxes on such purchases.
“If we fail to pass the bill this year, we will lose significant ground to Massachusetts.” Miller told Reuters.
The bill has not yet been filed. It will reportedly allow those over 21 to possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use and impose a 23 percent tax on marijuana sales. Democrats control both houses of the Rhode Island Legislature.
Also, in New Hampshire the state Legislature expects to consider a bill this spring that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis. Democratic Rep. Chuck Grassie of Rochester introduced the bill.
He introduced a similar bill in the 1970s. He came back to the Legislature this year after defeating incumbent Republican Susan DeLamus in the November election with 52 percent of the vote.
“The reasoning hasn’t changed in 40 years,” Grassie told the Associated Press. He said possessing small amounts of marijuana should not give someone a criminal record that keeps them from attending college or getting a job.