This past weekend the Connecticut Senate voted to decriminalize the possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana. The bill was backed by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy replaces current the current punishment, up to a year in prison and a $1000 fine, with a simple $150 ticket. While the measure squeaked by in the Senate thanks to a tie-breaking vote by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, it is expected to easily clear the House.

Proponents are expecting decriminalization to free up state resources currently spent on processing over 2000 yearly small-time possession offenses. A similar decriminalization bill had failed in previous years due to the former Gov. Jodi Rell’s opposition. Recent polling indicates that 65% of Connecticut residents support decriminalization.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney summed up his party’s opposition by declaring that “a policy that lessens the severity of drug use is a bad one.” Meanwhile, House Republican leader Larry Cafero insisted that the bill was tantamount to “going soft on our criminal population and sending a message to our youth that it’s not that bad to smoke marijuana.” The measure would move Connecticut’s marijuana laws closer to neighboring New York where possession of up to 25 grams is similarly decriminalized. While connecticut does not yet allow medical marijuana, A bill authorizing it is currently making its way through the legislature and a successful decriminalization law is likely to boost its chances.

Governor Malloy was quick to counter the opposition’s assertions; ”[we are] 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. Bloomfield Democratic Senator Eric Coleman further pointed out that the government has “spent billions of dollars building more prisons and prison cells, and put greater emphasis on punishment with little to no emphasis on rehabilitation, and the numbers of people being convicted and sentenced did not decrease.” Coincidentally, the bill passed only days after an international panel, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, issued a report declaring the war on drugs a failure and particularly stressing the need for marijuana decriminalization.

By: Marijuana News