Sen. Tony Hwang Votes NO on Legalized Marijuana Citing Societal Addiction Costs and Public Safety Concerns

June 8, 2021

HARTFORD – Monday evening, the Connecticut State Senate embarked on a thoughtful and respectful deliberation on a 300+ page bill to legalize and regulate the use of recreational marijuana that was released hours before Senate debate. The bill passed on a 19-17 vote. Senator Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield), who has been a consistent and longtime opponent to the legalization of a still federally controlled level one narcotic, shared his thoughts:


I am disappointed that this sweeping bill never came before the Public Health Committee to allow a public hearing with committee members listening and learning from ‘experts’ with experience on the public health implications of marijuana.


We have addressed criminal justice and civil rights by rectifying the past unfair and disproportionate incarceration of people of color in legislation that erases certain cannabis-related criminal convictions. I support social justice reforms and second chance society so those whose lives have been irrevocably altered by being arrested for possession can have a pathway to reclaim their lives.

However, this bill is full of irony in the Connecticut General Assembly. 


On one hand we will be legalizing a federal class one narcotic, technically a banned controlled substance, while on the other we congratulate ourselves on banning flavored vaping and tobacco because it causes widespread harm to our children and residents.


Today, the Senate justifiably passed a public health committee measure to increase opioid and substance addiction counseling which is critical to saving lives impacted by addiction. We also voted to approve marijuana that is medically proven to adversely impact the cognitive development of young people and a possible gateway to addiction.


We implore and preach against drunk and distracted driving to keep our roads safe, but we do not listen to law enforcement’s perspective and strong opposition to legalizing marijuana for public safety. The public will be able to readily access this federally illegal substance with no way to test for how ‘under the influence’ they are when driving or at work. The potency of this drug can vary greatly within a particular lot or product. Also, the problems that this legislation will cause far outpace the investment in this bill’s language to addiction services.


This is a fundamental public health policy change that is being done under the pretense of additional revenue for social equity. Legalizing cannabis will produce a limited amount of money for Connecticut without fully understanding societal addiction costs and public safety concerns. Is that additional tax revenue worth the societal cost and burden?