Hartford, CT: State lawmakers this week approved legislation, Senate Bill 1014, that ‘decriminalizes’ the possession of small, personal use amounts of marijuana by adults.
House lawmakers on Tuesday voted 90 to 57 in favor of the measure. Members of the Senate had previously passed the measure on Saturday after Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman broke an 18 to 18 tie vote.
Newly elected Democrat Gov. Dannel Malloy had backed the measure and is expected to sign it into law imminently.
Senate Bill 1014 reduces the penalties for the adult possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to a non-criminal infraction, punishable by a fine, no arrest or jail time, and no criminal record. This measure would similarly reduce penalties for the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
Stated Gov. Malloy: "Final approval of this legislation accepts the reality that the current law does more harm than good — both in the impact it has on people’s lives and the burden it places on police, prosecutors and probation officers of the criminal justice system. … In modifying this law, we are recognizing that the punishment should fit the crime, and acknowledging the effects of its application. There is no question that the state’s criminal justice resources could be more effectively utilized for convicting, incarcerating and supervising violent and more serious offenders."
Following the Governor’s signature, the measure will go into effect on July 1, 2011.
Connecticut’s new law will be similar to the existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Oregon where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.
Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense. Alaska law imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults.
Since 1977, only California, Nebraska, and Nevada have enacted decriminalization laws legislatively. Massachusetts enacted its law via ballot initiative in 2009.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500, or Erik Williams of Connecticut NORML at (860) 805-3243 or via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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