If the Governor gets his way, Connecticut will become the next state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, leading them to be punishable by a fine rather than criminal charges. Though it seems like a no-brainer, particularly since nearly all surrounding states have already taken the step, some are still opposed to the idea, worrying it appears “soft”.
The main opponent, the Chief State's Attorney is worried that the legislation could “send the message that the state of Connecticut tolerates marijuana,” according to the Wall Street Journal. He also says the bill has many gaps, not differentiating between adult and juvenile offenders, and creating no limit on the number of allowable infractions. He also claims it wouldn't save much money, stating possession alone rarely leads to jail time.
Supporters of the measure argue, however, that the bill would save significant money and man power, both of which is needed to fight more serious crime.
Currently, possession of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines. It often leads to probation in lieu of jail time, leading recreational pot smokers to be supervised by probation officers, officers who could be spending more time monitoring their more high risk probationers.
The Department of Public Safety Commissioner supports the bill and says “While the state has been spending millions in arrests, prosecution, and post-conviction probation for small amounts of marijuana, it has been failing to fund necessary staffing for DNA analysis that will solve cold cases and bring to justice the state's most violent criminals.”
And if the state's attorney's argument is largely centered on the fact that pot smokers don't end up in prison for pot alone, he shouldn't be too worried that decriminalizing marijuana would somehow allow these criminals to fall through the cracks. After all, their primary offense would still be fair game.
According to the Governor's office, the Office of Adult Probation supervises an estimated 1,090 people for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in CT. In 2009, 2,700 of the 8,118 marijuana arrests were for possession of marijuana alone and 75% of these cases were for less than a single ounce of marijuana.
From the police, to the courts, to corrections and probation, there are several areas that would experience a load off if marijuana was decriminalized. And it seems that many locals support the measure as well.
Currently, the bill is before the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee and lawmakers are discussing potential changes and additions to it.
In the meantime, if you are caught in possession of marijuana you will be charged with a crime. Contact me today to discuss your options and how I might be able to help you clear your name.