Legislative forces across many of the New England states are making it a priority to deal with drug-related issues in the 2017 session. Some of these folks are trying to solve the area’s opioid problem, while others are simply pushing for marijuana reform. But are the two connected?
Unfortunately, while recreational marijuana is a hot topic of discussion in New England — standing with strong Democratic and Republican support — none of the governors in those jurisdictions seem at all interested in signing a proposal that gives marijuana the same regulatory permissions as beer. They are trying to block legal marijuana even though has been proven to help wean addicts of opioids, which has plagued the region for years.
Some government powers even fear marijuana is a “gateway drug” and would do nothing but lead to higher addiction rates — one of the primary reasons the attempts to reform the marijuana laws across New England could get jammed up in the coming months.
Vermont stands a fighting chance this year at passing a recreational marijuana bill through the state legislature, but that is likely is far as it will go. The state’s new governor, Phil Scott, says he would not support a bill aimed at legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Even with one of the best chances at legalizing in 2017, there is a similar battle currently underway in Rhode Island. Although a modest proposal has been submitted to the state legislature, one that puts a number of restrictions on legal marijuana sales, there is a great deal of opposition on the issue from House and Senate gatekeepers. Even Governor Gina Raimondo is not sure legal weed is the best course of action.
In Connecticut, there has been some newfound support from Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, who recently introduced a measure to end the state’s prohibitionary stance, but Republican leadership says it is not interested in selling “our soul to fill our coffers.” Meanwhile, Governor Dannel Malloy has indicated that he wants to wait and see what happens in Massachusetts and Maine before giving the issue any consideration.
And then you have New Hampshire – a state where the primary focus is finding a solution to the opioid epidemic. But Republican controls do not seem at all enthusiastic about giving consideration to a bill legalizing marijuana.
Let’s just hope this debate can find some success in at least one state legislature in 2017. There is some belief in the marijuana reform community that if recreational marijuana is ever going to be legalized in the majority of states, it is crucial to eliminate the taboo associated with state prescribed pot reform.
“Winning full legalization the old-fashioned way—by getting it approved by a majority of the legislature and signed by the governor—would be an enormous political achievement that would open up the possibility of legalization in the balance of those states that do not offer a voter initiative,” Keith Stroup, founder of NORML, said in 2015.