HARTFORD, CT – Clergy members from throughout Connecticut stood on the north steps of the Capitol plead for the state to become the 12th in nation to legalize the regulation and taxation of marijuana for recreational use.
This convening stood in juxtaposition to another meeting of clergy at the Capitol last May, where they passionately pitched legislators to resist backing of legalization.
After failing to get a vote on cannabis legalization last year, state lawmakers renewed their efforts when Gov. Ned Lamont introduced SB 16. The bill which was referred to the Judiciary Committee would allow adults over 21 to purchase and possess up to one and one-half ounces of marijuana from a licensed retailer.
A tax would be applied on all sales to collect revenue and redistribute portions of it throughout many of Connecticut’s communities most disproportionately affected by current marijuana policy.
Proponents argue that Connecticut cannot continue to sit on the sidelines and watch as neighboring states like Massachusetts benefit from the increased revenue streams that legalization brings.
Clergy gathered Tuesday at the Capitol, however, emphasized a sense of increased social justice and compassion for those affected by what they consider as a failed policy, as equally, if not more, important to their desire to see a potential bill passed by the end of this year.
Rep. Charles Stallworth, a senior pastor at East End Baptist Tabernacle Church in Bridgeport, supports legalization.
“Regulation would also free up resources so that police could focus on more serious crimes,” Stallworth stated, arguing that Connecticut’s current policy has failed citizens by incarcerating too many for minor possession while allowing more serious crimes to go unchecked.
Stallworth envisioned a successful legalization vote as being capable of “improving police community relationships” by engendering goodwill, while also utilizing a portion of the money collected from taxation “to help revitalize communities that have been disproportionately harmed by laws against cannabis.”