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Working to Prohibit the
Sale of Unsafe Substances
Earlier this month I held a press conference in Hartford calling for new state laws to ban the sale of synthetic cannabis products (that mimic the ‘high’ from real marijuana) and Salvia, a naturally occurring hallucinogen. About a dozen other legislators and advocates from around the state joined me in opposition to the legal sale of these products; my proposed legislation to ban them in Connecticut is already in process.
The faux marijuana products—offered as Spice, K2, and Blaze among other brand names—are sold as incense, but many teenagers are inhaling these products to get high. Salvia, commonly referred to as sage, is used increasingly to provide hallucinogenic effects. Currently, these products can be purchased legally in convenience stores and other conventional retail outlets.
Right from the start, it seems counterintuitive to allow the legal sale of these products that are produced to provide an end-run around federal drug laws. If one of our purposes in state government is to protect the public health and well-being of individual residents—particularly young people—our state must carefully scrutinize comparable products and ban those with no discernable productive purpose.
Fake marijuana products are targeted at young people and are said to contain chemicals that researchers estimate to be from 5 to 25 times more potent than THC, the active ingredient in the real thing. Experts say Salvia alters the user’s perception and affects receptors in the brain responsible for pain control and some psychiatric disorders.
Beyond the health and safety risk these products pose to those who use them, labeling to suggest ‘not for consumption’ contradicts the packaging, which clearly promotes ingestion. We intend to outlaw the sale and use of these products in our state and protect those who are most vulnerable to their marketing and their harmful effects.
Awaiting New Governor’s
With a projected budget deficit approaching 20 percent of the state’s operating budget, legislators and others throughout the state are eagerly anticipating the first budget address from Governor Malloy in mid February.
No one is expecting an easy fix from this new administration. Our state, like most states, is in a fiscal bind as a result of a stubborn, global recession. Governor Malloy promised ‘shared sacrifice’ when he spoke at his inauguration and said it would help everyone in Connecticut realize ‘shared prosperity.’
I join the governor in that sense of optimism.
The legislative Commission on Enhancing Agency Outcomes made many promising recommendations. The look and operation of state government will be quite different if these are embraced and formally adopted. Thirty individual proposals were finalized recently: its report says more than $450 million would be saved over the next two years if every recommendation is adopted.
One area the CEAO focused on was long-term care for the elderly. According to the CEAO, the state’s portion of Medicaid-covered long-term geriatric care is $2.4 billion, or approximately 13 percent of last year’s state budget. Just this portion of the budget has the potential to yield tremendous savings, improve the quality of life for countless senior citizens and accommodate the fervent wishes of a vast majority of them--to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. The challenge is to decentralize and individualize a system that is growing exponentially to keep up with the fastest growing segment of our population.
New Leadership Responsibility
for the New Term
After an Opening Day revision of committee assignments, I was appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams, Jr. to assume responsibility for the legislature’s Education Committee. I had been the Senate Chair of the Public Safety and Security Committee since 2005 and have also led the Environment Committee and the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.
I relish this opportunity to expand upon my interest in public education. I currently serve as the Connecticut delegate to the New England Secondary School Consortium and I am the current chairman of the Task Force to Study Individualized Education Programs (IEP), a group formed last fall to consider revised educational approaches for challenged learners.
There are few policy areas in state government more important than public education and I welcome the challenges and responsibilities of building future education policy for our state. This appointment provides just one more outlet for ideas I have about integrating time-tested curriculum standards with real-world educational experiences.
In my view the goal of 21st century secondary education should be to inspire in students an inclination for lifelong learning so they are prepared for, and can then adapt to the rapid rate of change and challenges we can expect going forward. I also embrace the idea that public school students of today will soon become tomorrow’s workforce in an increasingly competitive, global marketplace, so I will work hard to prepare Connecticut students for the challenges inherent in that.