For REC in Connecticut, Focus on Elections

By Seth Wakeman | November 17, 2017

Popular opinion suggests Connecticut could be among the next few states to pass a recreational cannabis law, but it will be difficult to accomplish legislatively. We and other states without ballot measures face unique and evolving obstacles to legalize REC. But these problems could be mitigated during the 2018 midterm elections.

As voter dissatisfaction increases in Connecticut, there’s a growing perception that the state legislature is acting against the general population's interests. And circumstances have grown riper for a new crop of pro-cannabis politicians. (Governor Dannel Malloy (D) opposes REC legalization but is not running for re-election.)

In Connecticut we are acutely susceptible to influence from the wealthy “donor class,” a group which skews older and more conservative. But by leveraging the public’s distrust of elected officials and the “donor class’s” influence, a wave of pro-cannabis legislators could be voted into office next year.

Low voter turnout during midterm elections presents a prime opportunity for pro-legalization organizations to pursue a new strategy; one that leverages the current dissatisfaction with incumbents. In low-turnout mid-term elections, an energized base can overpower entrenched interests. We just saw it happen in New Jersey where there’s now a Governor-elect, Phil Murphy (D), who included legalization as part of his platform.

In Connecticut, both the governor and state legislature oppose legalization. But our local patchwork of activists organizations have deluded themselves into thinking that somehow they can overcome these obstacles. In this environment cannabis legalization is but a pipe dream. There is far too much resistance from likely voters, and too little excitement and engagement on the part of supporters.

Cannabis users as a group are extremely passionate and energized on the subject. The problem thus far has been a dearth of vocally pro-cannabis candidates to choose from, coupled with low-name recognition of the few that do exist.

Considering the set of challenges we face, the most effective strategy would be to publicize the campaigns of pro-cannabis candidates. Social media platforms and local social scenes whose demographics tend to favor legalization are underused resources since the people they reach are less likely to vote.

If cannabis lobbying groups in Connecticut focus on electing pro-cannabis candidates from across the political spectrum, this political hail mary could then become a reality in the 2019 legislative session.

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Mr. Wakeman is a cannabis activist and a 20 year member of the local cannabis community. A Master Grower with 10 years of boutique cannabis cultivation experience, he is founder and lead consultant for Pinnacle Cultivation Services.

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