Connecticut House To Vote on Decriminalizing Pot

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  Connecticut House To Vote on Decriminalizing Pot

Posted by CN Staff on June 07, 2011 at 09:47:29 PT
By The Associated Press 
Source: Associated Press  

Hartford, Conn. -- The Connecticut Senate narrowly approved legislation on Saturday that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana.The measure passed after Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman broke an 18-to-18 tie vote as the president of the state Senate. It now moves to the House of Representatives for final legislative action.
While opponents of the bill said it sends the wrong message, proponents said the legislation will help young people arrested for marijuana possession to avoid a criminal record that could hurt their chances to find a good job or enter college."It puts into jeopardy the future endeavors of such young people," said Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield, co-chairman of the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee. "Decriminalizing the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana is a better course and in the best interest of young people whose judgment may not be fully matured."Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, stressed that lawmakers were not legalizing marijuana."We are not enforcing the use of illegal drugs. We strongly disapprove of their use, but we're trying to realign their punishment that is more appropriate," he said, adding that the state should be focusing its scarce criminal justice resources on dangerous offenders.Under the bill, possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana would no longer be a misdemeanor. Instead, it would result in a $150 fine for a first offense and a fine ranging from $200 to $500 for subsequent offenses. Those under 21 years old would face a 60-day driver's license suspension, similar to the existing penalty for possessing alcohol.Under current law, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by a possible jail term and larger fines: $1,000 for a first offense and $3,000 for subsequent offenses.The bill also requires anyone 18 years old or younger who is caught with less than a half-ounce to be referred to the state's juvenile courts.During the debate, Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, an outspoken opponent of any efforts to legalize marijuana, persuaded the majority Democrats to further amend the bill to require someone caught three times with less than a half-ounce to seek drug treatment. Boucher voiced concern about the potential ill health effects from marijuana usage. She said she's been urged by families who've lost children to drug addiction to oppose the decriminalization bill."When we do this, and it has been shown in other states that have gone down this path, there is both an increase in use and an increase in crime," said Boucher, who also opposes another bill that would fully legalize the medical use of marijuana. The fate of that legislation remains in doubt as lawmakers face a midnight adjournment on Wednesday.Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said he opposed the legislation based on personal experience. He told the story of his older sister Lucie, who became addicted to drugs in the 1980s, went to drug rehab and has been clean and sober ever since.McKinney said marijuana led his sister to use cocaine and other drugs."For me, a policy that lessens the severity of drug use is a bad one," he said. "I don't believe we should just give up."McKinney said there are already options for young people to clear their records from a marijuana possession charge. They can apply for youthful offender status, a program that eventually clears the conviction from a young person's record. Adults also have an opportunity to apply for a similar program called Accelerated Rehabilitation.Shortly after the bill passed, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former prosecutor, urged the House of Representatives to pass the decriminalization bill before the session ends. He called it a "commonsense" reform to the criminal justice system.Malloy said the state is "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."Source: Associated Press (Wire)Published: June 6, 2011 Copyright: 2011 The Associated PressCannabisNews -- Cannabis Archives

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Comment #8 posted by afterburner on June 07, 2011 at 12:50:48 PT
dongenero #3 
"It's like some of these states are legislating in a vacuum. With a bit of research into what other states have done, they could probably be much more efficient." Here's why they don't look at other states, stereotypes rule:SAFER - L.A. Record Interviews SAFER cofounder & 'Marijuana Is Safer' coauthor Steve Fox.
Written by SAFER.  
Monday, 19 October 2009
L.A. Record: When you first hit D.C., did they ever send pages over to you to try to hit you up for some pot? Or just treat you differently?Steve Fox: Nothing along those lines, but I went to one meeting early on in my lobbying—it may have been my third meeting that I had with an actual member of Congress, as opposed to a staff member. The chief of staff who was sitting in on the meeting with us opened the door the member of Congress’ door and said, ‘Hey, the potheads are here.’ We were both dressed up in our suits and looked nothing like potheads whatsoever, if you have a stereotypical image of potheads in your head. But that’s how we were introduced. It’s challenging work—trying to get members of Congress to change the image in their minds and the minds of their staff members.
}"‘Hey, the potheads are here.’"{
Re-re-re-re- re-re-re-re- spect All I'm askingIs for a little respect when I come home
}Aretha Franklin: Respect LyricsSongwriters: Otis Redding
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Comment #7 posted by paul armentano on June 07, 2011 at 12:33:38 PT
amended text of CT decrim bill
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Comment #6 posted by Paul armentano on June 07, 2011 at 11:12:25 PT
decrim bill
The fine was amended in committee from $99 to $200. The driver's license suspension for those under age 21 is for 60 days. That provision was also added last minute in committee. We are expecting a House vote on this later today.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on June 07, 2011 at 10:31:48 PT
Maybe it has gone up and I just didn't know it. They are strict about driving under the influence of alcohol around this section of the state. 
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Comment #4 posted by Sam Adams on June 07, 2011 at 10:29:40 PT
the driver's license suspension is totally vindictive, it's just there to further scapegoat cannabis users.Perhaps Sen. Boucher should enter treatment for being a pathological liar.Too bad CT does not have the referendum process.  These small-time pols can lie forever with no possibility of being confronted.It makes me wonder how long these non-referendum states will take to legalize. I wouldn't be surprised if these states wait decades to legalize after the 1st referendum state to do it.
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Comment #3 posted by dongenero on June 07, 2011 at 10:23:07 PT
sourced from NORML
FoM, that data is from NORML's site. I thought it was only $100 as well.....must be inflation.Here is a note I should have included for the double asterisk:
**A minor misdemeanor does not create a criminal record in OhioFine only, no criminal record. It's like some of these states are legislating in a vacuum. With a bit of research into what other states have done, they could probably be much more efficient.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on June 07, 2011 at 10:11:19 PT

It was a $100 fine. I didn't know they changed it but they could have. It has worked well for years I believe. 
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Comment #1 posted by dongenero on June 07, 2011 at 10:03:25 PT

MJ law disparity
For all the hand wringing in Connecticut, you'd think they were doing something unprecedented or novel in proposing a $150 fine for 14 grams. Here are the laws Ohio has had on the books for about 40 years:Less than 100 grams 	minor misdemeanor** 	none 	$150
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