Drug Law

Huge: Connecticut to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

| by NORML

Connecticut lawmakers moments ago voted 90 to 57 in favor of Senate Bill 1014, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use by adults. Senate lawmakers had narrowly approved an amended version of the measure on Saturday; House lawmakers concurred with the Senate today, sending the measure to Democrat Gov. Dannel Malloy — who will sign it into law.

As amended, SB 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 jail time, and no criminal record. (This measure would similarly reduce penalties on the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.)

Once signed into law, Connecticut will become the fourteenth state to replace criminal sanctions and arrest for minor marijuana possession with largely non-criminal sanctions. (Seven states pose no criminal sanctions for cannabis possession; six states have eliminated the potential for jail terms for first offenses, but still classify the offense as a misdemeanor or minor misdemeanor.)

Connecticut is only the second state enact decriminalization to legislatively in the past decade. (Massachusetts enacted a similar law via ballot initiative in 2009.)

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NORML supporters, and Connecticut NORML’s regional organizer and state lobbyist Erik Williams, played a significant role in sheparding this legislation through the State House — generating thousands of phone calls and e-mails to lawmakers at a time when political experts were alleging that the measure lacked the political will for passage. Below is a message from Erik Williams:

Dear CT NORML Friends and Supporters,

We did it! Moments ago, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed SB 1014, Decriminalizing Small Amounts of Marijuana. The Governor has pledged to sign the bill into law.

Thank you for all of your hard work in making this a reality. Connecticut has taken a first step in addressing the outdated and unworkable War on Drugs, which costs taxpayers $billions every year and ruins individual lives and devastates communities.

While this is clearly a victory for CT NORML and the State of Connecticut, it is bittersweet as the Medical Marijuana bill has yet to be brought for a vote in the Senate. If it were to be brought for a vote, it would easily pass with both Republicans and Democrats supporting the measure. I pledge right now to all of you who have fought so hard with me for the legalization of medical marijuana that I will not give up until nobody stand in the way of you and your doctor making medical decisions. I will not give up until compassion is the main driver of public policy replacing political posturing, demagoguery and fear. I will not stop working until medical marijuana is legalized and I ask you to continue to fight by my side.

Connecticut’s legislative session tomorrow, but there is still time to act in favor of medical cannabis. If you live in Connecticut, please contact the office of Sen. Don Williams, President Pro Tempore, and urge him to allow the 2011 medical marijuana bill to receive a floor vote. You can also contact your own individual Senator via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.