Just a few months ago I blogged about the possibility of our state becoming the next to decriminalize a small amount of marijuana. Well, the legislature has passed the measure and the governor is planning to sign it into law in coming days. Despite critics' worry that the decriminalization sends the wrong message, lawmakers came through with common sense and a law that will help reserve the courts, jails, and probation staff for more serious criminals.
Decriminalization and legalization are far from the same. As it stands the new law will make it an infraction, punishable by a fine, to be caught in possession of less than a single ounce of marijuana. Currently, it's considered a misdemeanor crime and carries potential jail time.
Jail time for a joint hardly seems necessary and is definitely not a good use of resources, particularly at a time when funding and personnel are stretched thin. Instead the courts should be used for those offenses that put the public at risk.
This new law will make Connecticut the eighth state to decriminalize pot according to the Yale Daily News. They also point out that some states have removed the possibility of jail time, though keeping possession a misdemeanor offense.
After the new law is signed, if you are caught with less than an ounce of marijuana you will be fined $150 for a first offense. After the first offense, fines will go up to $200 to $500, but the offense will still remain an infraction, sort of like a traffic ticket. However, if you are under age 21 and found in possession, the bill will allow the court to take your driving privileges for up to 60 days.
There's nothing new or surprising in the arguments against this new bill. Though it passed by a vote of 90 to 57, the 57 are pretty adamant that the decriminalization of pot could open the floodgates to further criminality and somehow negatively affect the youth. But their worries are unfounded.
One lawmaker says, “What kind of message does this send to our children? This law undermines a fundamental lesson that our schools, social service programs and parents teach our children: that taking drugs is bad for you.”
While the Senator's concerns seem heartfelt, decriminalizing possession of a small amount of pot doesn't send children the message that drugs are okay. After all the offense is still penalized. And no one contests the wide availability of alcohol despite the thousands of alcohol-related deaths every year.
When it comes to crime, it really doesn't matter what the charge is, some people will look negatively on you because you are accused of a crime in the first place. Having an experienced drug defense attorney on your side can help. Contact me today to discuss the details of your case and how I might be able to help.