Lawmakers learning from the impact legalized marijuana has on Massachusetts | News

(WFSB) – Will Connecticut legalize recreational marijuana?

It’s a hot topic at the capitol this year. Massachusetts did it a few years ago, so what’s happened in the time since?

When you’re driving on I-91 north in Hartford, right before you get to Massachusetts, there are billboards telling drivers where to buy pot.

Cannabis Connection in Westfield is open for business 7 days a week.

Tom Keenan is one of the owners. They sell 12 to 20 different varieties and they sell plenty.

It’s a profitable business and they pay lots of taxes and fees. They’ve paid $800,000 in less than a year.

Money is a big reason states are legalizing it.

On any given month, about 15,000 people come to this dispensary alone to buy marijuana. Legally, they can’t track people because of privacy. A good percentage of the customers are from Connecticut.

Governor Ned Lamont feels it’s time to start cashing in and state lawmakers are once again debating recreational marijuana, but there are some real concerns.

In Massachusetts where it’s legal to buy it, it’s illegal to consume cannabis when you drive.

“We can advise, but we can’t control what people do,” Keenan said.

Not everyone takes that advice.

“It doesn’t bother me. When I smoke it, doesn’t phase me. I drive normal all the time,” said Justin Ayala.

Buzzed driving has created many challenged for law enforcement.

“The concerns are that policing is very difficult or impossible around the issue of marijuana and driving,” said Anthony Gulluni, Hampden County District Attorney.

Anthony Gulluni is the district attorney for Hampden County in Massachusetts. Because there is no test like there is for alcohol, it makes it harder to prove someone is impaired.

“It presents confusion and doubt, and I think officers are conscientious professionals and if they thing they don’t have the probable cause or elements to make a decision, they can’t arrest somebody,” Gulluni said.

State Representative Matt Blumenthal is pushing for legalization in Connecticut.

When asked about how he addresses the concerns law enforcement has about the bill, Blumenthal said, “So, as the bill as it stands has increased protection on the road including funding for drug recognition experts and training more police.”

These highly trained police officers are expensive and in Massachusetts few police departments can afford them.

Those who support legalized marijuana say it gets rid of the black market, but that’s not the reality.

“The black market is alive and well and the objective of legalizing it hasn’t been achieved,” Gulluni said.

“This stuff is more expensive than the streets, but there you don’t know what you’re doing on the streets and putting it in there,” said Bobby Jo Maynard.

“We are certainly seeing a continuation of violence surrounding marijuana, particularly home invasion cases,” Gulluni said.

This was one of the worst cases. Masked men entered a home in Springfield where people were selling marijuana, and someone was set on fire.

Supporters, however, say people are smoking pot now and legalizing it will regulate it and make it safer.

In 2019, Massachusetts made $400 million from pot sales, but the district attorney says if there wasn’t this kind of money involved, would states still be trying to legalize it?

This year, Lamont has submitted a bill to legalize and commercialize marijuana. There has been one public hearing this year.

Now, it’s up to the Judiciary Committee to come up with its own version.

To become a law, it would need approval from both the House and Senate.

Copyright 2019 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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