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Connecticut Legislature Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #687)

The Connecticut Senate Saturday narrowly approved a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The vote was an 18-18 tie until Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman (D), in her position as president of the Senate, cast the tie-breaking vote to put the measure over the top.

Connecticut is about to join the ranks of the decrim states. (Image via
On Tuesday, it passed the House. It is supported by Gov. Dan Malloy (D), who Saturday urged the House to pass it.

Under current law, the possession of "any usable amount" of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000. The fine jumps to $3,000 for subsequent offenses.

The bill, Senate Bill 1014, would make possession of less than a half-ounce of pot a civil infraction punishable by a maximum fine of $150. Fines jump to from $200 to $500 for subsequent violations. People under 21 would see their drivers' licenses suspended for 60 days, similar to the punishment for minors in possession of alcohol. Under an amendment by marijuana foe Rep. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) and accepted by Democrats, anyone thrice cited for small-time possession would be required to seek drug treatment.

Supporters of the bill argued that slapping people with a criminal record for small-time pot possession unfairly burdened them and the criminal justice system, but opponents said it sent the wrong message.

"It puts into jeopardy the future endeavors of such young people," said Sen. Eric Coleman (D-Bloomfield) co-chairman of the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee. "Decriminalizing the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana is a better course and in the best interest of young people whose judgment may not be fully matured."

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven) stressed that lawmakers were not legalizing marijuana. "We are not enforcing the use of illegal drugs. We strongly disapprove of their use, but we're trying to realign their punishment that is more appropriate," he said, adding that the state should be focusing its scarce criminal justice resources on dangerous offenders.

But Boucher had dire warnings for Connecticut if the bill passed. "When we do this, and it has been shown in other states that have gone down this path, there is both an increase in use and an increase in crime," said Boucher, who also opposes another bill that would fully legalize the medical use of marijuana.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield) used a version of the discredited gateway theory to bolster his opposition. He told solons his old sister had started with marijuana, then went on to become addicted to cocaine and other drugs before getting clean after treatment.

"For me, a policy that lessens the severity of drug use is a bad one," he said. "I don't believe we should just give up."

After the bill passed the Senate, Gov. Malloy urged the House to approve "a commonsense" criminal justice reform. The state is "doing more harm than good when we prosecute people who are caught using marijuana -- needlessly stigmatizing them in a way they would not if they were caught drinking underage," he said.

Now, the legislature has done as the governor asked. Expect Malloy to sign the bill shortly.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


TC (not verified)

  Marijuana is not a gateway drug by any mean's. I know from personal experience and I'm not lying to protect myself from criminal prosecution or public scrutiny. When will this government learn that as long as these so called "Narcotics" are illegal most people that use them will lie about using them for protection from crooked law enforcement of America. 

  The truth is when people get surveyed, they will lie to protect themselves, that is a fact. Plus you can't figure it out like the government does by the amount of arrest's, because a lot of people do them without getting caught their whole lives. On top of that you got to figure out all the people that use any mined altering substance including alcohol and the people using drug's by getting a legal prescription from a doctor so they don't break the law. Those people always lie in court to lesson their sentence, and blame their addiction from doctor's prescription, and I again know from personal experience being in jail with these people that really have no intention on stopping. I bet if people knew the truth probably at least 75% of people in the WORLD use a mind altering substance. I almost forgot what about the people that huff spray paint, gasoline, or even whip cream can's or freon, to much to list, but you get the idea.

  I will tell you from complete personal experience that alcohol is the worst mind altering substance, compared to Marijuana, cocaine, and even opiates (heroin). I don't care what anybody else say's, this is from my personal experience using them and nothing was worse then the alcohol, that is the truth. 

  Then you got a lot of cop's that use mind altering substances including the so called illegal one's, then they turn around and throw people in jail or prison for the very same thing they do, B.S. 

  Point nobody deserves to be held hostage in a cage for any amount of time for using any substance, it's their business and their's ONLY. The government does not own our bodies.

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 1:04pm Permalink
BeLLa<3 (not verified)

In reply to by TC (not verified)

I couldnt have said it any better myself!!! I agree with everything you said.  ESPECIALLY the part about alcohol being the worsT!  & when you said "Point nobody deserves to be held hostage in a cage for any amount of time for using any substance, it's their business and their's ONLY. The government does not own our bodies."  SOOOOO TRUE!!!!!!!!!!!

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 7:41pm Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

In reply to by TC (not verified)

Both of them pointed straight at the heart of cannabis prohibition.

Since weed is FAR, FAR less likely to lead to violence than booze, wtf is the point exactly of shoving people in the direction of using alcohol?

How dare people use alcohol and deprive others of liberty for using a safer substance! How can any real American act like that? How can any real Christian or other religious person act like that? Jesus HATED hypocrisy, remember?

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 7:28pm Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

that alcohol is less dangerous than cannabis. The graveyards, and  hospitals, and filled with people who are proof that the opposite is true. Not only is it a dangerous message to send, it undermines the government's and drug educators' credibility in general.

Boucher is just making that up about an increase in crime, isn't he? I've never heard that claim that decriminalization increases crime before, but I've read the opposite. They've been lightening up a little on cannabis in recent years, and crime is down, even during a very bad recession.

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 6:45pm Permalink
BruisedLee (not verified)

In reply to by saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

The graveyards, and  hospitals, and filled with people who are proof that the opposite is true.

What sources do you have to support this claim? I have not found one documented case of death attributed to marijuana, ever. Alcohol, according to a US gov't study, kills 75,000 Americans each year, and is responsible for 5% of all circulatory diseases. This is only in the US, mind you.

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 6:34am Permalink

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