Skyler Simpkins ’23
The legalization of drugs will always be a popular yet divisive issue. The most conservative among us will gawk at the horror of decriminalization, believing that individuals will be rambling in the streets, demonizing their children to a world of psychological instability. The most liberal among us will push the boundaries of decriminalization, yet they may be taken aback by the failing effects of social programs designed to prevent drug abuse. All of these factors combine and create a debate worthy of grabbing a bag of popcorn and carefully observing.
While it may be our prerogative to take a backseat and enjoy the partisan display of moral politics, we must educate ourselves on the issue at hand as it has the possibility of affecting us in Connecticut sooner rather than later. There are many different factors to the legalization of drugs that must be considered. We cannot allow ourselves to fall ill to a reductionist standpoint and believe that the legalization of cannabis is as simple as “to buy or not to buy.” Instead, we must acknowledge that the legalization of cannabis will have profound effects on our economy, our legal system, our illegal drug market, and, in the case of Connecticut, on minority communities.
Connecticut is planning on taxing the sale of cannabis if the bill is to pass. This tax will undoubtedly help the state, but a significant portion of the tax has been earmarked to aid the communities most ravaged by the war on drugs. From this perspective, it seems to be a win-win: the state is gaining money while also helping those minority communities heavily impacted by the previous regulation on drugs. One way the state is helping these communities is by reversing convictions and clearing the records of those individuals previously charged with marijuana possession. This resembles a stark dichotomy as we have just elected one of the most infamous prosecutors for drug possession to the vice presidency.
By making cannabis legal, Connecticut is hammering the first nail in the coffin of the illegal drug market. With the legalization of any drug, purity standards will exponentially increase. There will be less risk of haphazardly produced drugs, and, overall, the market will produce better and more refined cannabis than before (thanks to capitalism, this will also foster a more affordable drug). Governor Lamont’s bill seems to be checking off the practical and ethical boxes. However, not everyone is satisfied with this bill and is quite suspicious of the after-effects.
The most worrying oversight cited by many proponents against this bill is the presence of social services aiding those who abuse drugs. When America deinstitutionalized mentally ill patients, the majority of the populace applauded these humanistic efforts. It was the government’s failure of providing psychological social services to these individuals that left the severely mentally handicapped behind. Who’s to say that this phenomenon will not happen once again? We will legalize cannabis but fail to provide social support to individuals struggling with addiction and withdrawal. Without verification that these services will be met, many believe that the bill should not pass.
Another viewpoint of those in opposition regards the power of corporations over small businesses. These opponents believe that the legalization of cannabis will only propel the interests of corporations, leaving small businesses in the dust. While I personally do not see this outcome materializing as dangerously as the one previously mentioned, it is still a valid concern of those with an utter distrust in corporate America.
Overall, Lamont’s bill for the legalization of cannabis is a great effort to practically support the state while also protecting the well-being of residents from illegal drug production and a harsh legal system. It is for these reasons that I believe the bill should be passed with modification. I believe that Connecticut must make active plans in providing drug rehabilitation services to people if they are to begin the steps of legalizing drugs. While marijuana is not as addictive as many of its more negatively connotated counterparts, Connecticut must take active steps in the availability of social services for those affected by drug use.
When Connecticut produces a plan of action for social services post-legalization, the bill will be well-equipped to pass and make positive contributions to our deserving society.