June 6th, 2011 | Uncategorized

State may reduce penalty for possession of small amount of marijuana

Possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana may soon no longer be a crime in Connecticut.

While the State House of Representatives has yet to vote on it, the Senate passed a bill Saturday that would reduce the penalty for possessing up to half an ounce of marijuana from a crime to an infraction carrying a fine. After Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, as president of the Senate, broke an 18–18 vote to carry the bill through, Gov. Dannel Malloy hailed it in a press release as an example of “common sense reforms to our criminal justice system.”

While the bill’s opponents in the Senate argued that decriminalizing marijuana sends the wrong message, proponents stressed the damage that young people can incur from a criminal record.

“We are acknowledging the reality that we are doing more harm than good when we prosecute people who are caught using marijuana — needlessly stigmatizing them in a way we would not if they were caught drinking underage, for example, and disproportionately affecting minorities,” Malloy said in the release.

The bill’s most outspoken opponent, Sen. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) argued in testimony before the Judiciary Committee in March that marijuana poses a threat to the state’s public health by serving as a “gateway” for other drugs and increasing the risk of psychological disorders.

Another reason Malloy, a former prosecutor in Brooklyn, cited for his support of the bill is its potential to free up the state’s criminal justice system to focus on more dangerous crimes.

Malloy stressed that the bill would not legalize marijuana. Under the bill, the fine for a first offense for possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana is $150. Subsequent offenses carry fines ranging from $200 to $500. Similar to the penalty for underage drinking, offenders under 21 could have their driver’s licenses suspended for 60 days.

Still, the bill represents a significant shift in the drug’s legal status. Currently, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor carrying possible time in jail and fines beginning at $1,000 for a first offense.

The bill now heads to the House for final legislative action.

Correction: June 6, 2011

Due to an editing error, the original headline of this article misstated the status of the bill reducing marijuana possession penalties, which still needs the approval of the state’s House of Representatives in order to become law.

  • ConservativeChristian

    Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. How about $100 for a permit to grow a dozen plants? Also, check out w w w . northpoint.org/ if you’d like to see some very positive material about Jesus at work in people’s lives

  • CitiGurl68

    I can’t believe they will consider reducing the penalty for the possession of marijuana and throw a homeless mother in jail for 22yrs for enrolling her child in school. Something is definitely wrong with this picture.

  • jnewsham

    This bill is now law. So is the CT DREAM Act. Nice job, YCD Lobbying!

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