Conn. Lawmakers Discuss Legalizing Marijuana

HARTFORD, Conn. --

Lawmakers in Hartford held a public hearing Monday morning to discuss several bills that would legalize marijuana in Connecticut.

One of those bills would allow doctors to prescribe the drug for people suffering from certain medical conditions.

John Lorenzo, a former chief of marine police with the Lake Lillinonah Authority, was scheduled to testify in support of the bills.

"The current law forces police officers in Connecticut to waste hour after hour chasing marijuana users, arresting them and processing their cases," he said. "If we decriminalized marijuana in this state, police could solve more burglaries, rapes and murders, and it would free up jail space and save the dollars wasted on keeping otherwise ordinary citizens incarcerated. Marijuana prohibition does nothing to protect public safety. It only threatens it."

Lorenzo is a speaker for the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international group of police officers, judges, corrections officials, border agents and other criminal justice professionals.

In addition to the bills decriminalizing possession of marijuana, the committee was also scheduled to hear bills that would legalize the medical use of marijuana for people whose doctors said it could help them.

"I don't feel like a criminal," said Lindsey Beck, who has Chrohn's disease. "I'm just trying to live like everybody else."

If those bills were to pass, Connecticut would join 15 other states and Washington, D.C., in protecting medical marijuana patients from being arrested.

Rep. Larry Cafero said he supports medical marijuana but said the federal government should make the rules. He said he's against another bill that would decriminalize a small amount of marijuana.

"Carrying an ounce, where you can roll between 20 and 40 joints, would be equivalent to hitchhiking or jay walking," he said.

A poll released last week by Quinnipiac University showed Connecticut voters supported decriminalizing marijuana by a 65-32 margin, and said they favor medical marijuana 79-17.

Both proposals have majority support across political parties and among all age groups, according to the poll.

Connecticut currently spends $130 million enforcing marijuana prohibition laws every year, according to Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron.

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