Four Governor Candidates At Marijuana Debate At Yale

Four candidates for governor have confirmed their participation in a debate next week on marijuana legalization.

Middletown mayor Dan Drew, Republican state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan of Glastonbury, former state Senator Jonathan Harris of West Hartford, and Afghanistan war veteran Micah Welintukonis of Coventry have accepted invitations, said attorney Aaron J. Romano, the debate’s moderator.

Romano is a trial attorney who serves as counsel to Connecticut’s chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, known as NORML.

With a recent debate at the University of Hartford canceled because some candidates were not invited, the marijuana debate at Yale University in New Haven is expected to be the first debate of the campaign season. The University of Hartford event was canceled as only seven candidates had confirmed, while the Yale event is even smaller with four candidates.

But Romano says that all candidates — Republican and Democrat — have been invited, regardless of their positions on marijuana legalization.

NORML is co-sponsoring the event with a student group at Yale from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 28 at Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall at 1 Prospect St in New Haven. The venue seats 385 people.

In addition to legalization, the debate will focus on criminal justice reform, hemp production, the state’s current medical marijuana program, the economy, and job growth, among others.

Even though there is a huge field in the governor’s race, only four candidates will be on the stage. Romano said that three candidates said they had scheduling conflicts, while others did not respond to the invitation.

With 90 minutes set aside for the debate, Romano said that candidates would have four minutes to provide an answer — three minutes to respond and then a one-minute rebuttal. Each candidate should be able to answer five questions under the timeframe, he said.

“Now that we have the four that are confirmed with the time constraint that we have, we’re comfortable with the four,’’ Romano said.

Despite a push by advocates for the past two years, the legislature has repeatedly balked at legalizing recreational marijuana. Lawmakers said there was no chance that the legalization would move forward during the election year of 2016, and the measure failed again in 2017.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has repeatedly opposed legalization, despite moves in Massachusetts and other states for legalization.

“In order for legalization to pass, there has to be a governor who supports it,’’ Romano said.

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