On Monday the Connecticut Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 16, the governor-backed bill to legalize and regulate cannabis in the state. The hearing was an opportunity for both administrative agencies, state representatives, and stakeholders to testify in support or opposition of the bill.
Among the top officials that testified in support of the bill was senior advisor to the governor Jonathan Harris.
“We can’t stick our heads in the sand. Cannabis will be increasingly available to the residents of Connecticut. We need to come together on how to most effectively protect our children and public health and safety.” — Harris, during the hearing
Along with legalizing adult use and regulating the sale of cannabis, the bill also includes important social equity and criminal justice reform provisions. Under the bill, a nine-member Equity Commission would be created to “encourage” participation in the cannabis industry by persons from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition and enforcement.
“In many places equity might have a seat at the table, where this equity commission gives us a whole table,” said Jason Ortiz, President of the Minority Cannabis Business Association which supports SB 16’s prioritization of creating economic opportunities for disproportionately impacted communities.
Criminal justice reform organizations including the Connecticut Defense Lawyers Association and the Last Prisoner Project also testified in support of the bill, which includes mechanisms for the automatic erasure of past cannabis offenses. The governor’s top criminal justice aide, Mark Pelka, noted that the state has identified 558 collateral consequences to having a criminal record in Connecticut and that a criminal conviction remains on your record for 110 years after your date of birth. “
“That means when most people are buried, the work that they’ve done to atone for the wrongs or to rehabilitate or move forward, that conviction remains on their permanent record,” Pelka said.
Along with erasure, the bill also includes policy proposals to ensure that individuals with cannabis offenses on their records can participate in the legal industry.
Editor’s note: This article is an editorial contribution from the Last Prisoner Project. Learn more at LastPrisonerProject.org.
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