6/7/2011 – Today the Connecticut House of Representatives passed SB 1014, a bill to make possession of less than 14 grams of marijuana a non-criminal violation for adults. There was heavy debate about the concept, but the measure prevailed in a 90-57 vote. The legislation was passed by the Senate over the weekend.
Governor Dannel P. Malloy sponsored the bill and is now expected to sign it into law.
Speaking about the bill on the floor today Republican Rep. Brenda Kupchick seemed torn: “Someone wrote to me today that if I didn’t support this bill that I would be an active proponent to government intervention into the private lives of citizens and interfering with individual liberties. That actually bothered me.”
Rep. Gerald Fox, a proponent of the legislation and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, answered dozens of questions from his peers. Opponents seemed to be most concerned with lightening the criminal treatment for those ages 18-21. But Fox assured them that young adults would face the same penalties for marijuana as they do for underage drinking.
Rep. Fox also pointed out that by treating possession of small amounts as a non-criminal offense it would not hurt the future employment or military eligibility of young people.
“The penalty is different, but going to court remains the same,” said Fox.
Under the new bill adults in possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana would be punished with a $150 fine on the first occasion and $200-$500 for additional offenses. Those between the ages of 18-21 will need to appear in court and will also have their drivers’ license suspended for 60 days.
[UPDATE 5:05PM] Governor Malloy issued this statement today:
“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. Let me make it clear – we are not legalizing the use of marijuana. 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.
“Modification of this law will now put Connecticut in line with the laws of two of our neighboring states, New York and Massachusetts, and a total of thirteen states across the country with similar statutes. I applaud the General Assembly in their passage of this legislation and will sign it into law. I would also like to specifically thank State Senator Martin Looney, who first introduced this legislation in 2009, for his support and advocacy of this issue.”
When the bill is signed into law Connecticut will be the 14th US State to make adult cannabis possession a non-criminal offense.
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Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions? email@example.com