The good news just keeps on coming. The Connecticut House of Representatives just passed a bill to decriminalize possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana! The Senate passed the bill over the weekend, so it now heads to the desk of Governor Dan Malloy who is sure to sign it. Malloy has been a strong supporter of decriminalization and deserves much of the credit for this bill passing.
With today’s vote, the penalty for possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana will drop from a misdemeanor to a civil violation. First offense possession of a small amount of marijuana, or paraphernalia intended for it, will be punishable by a $150 fine, with penalties escalating to $200-500 for a second offense, and mandatory treatment for a third offense. Most importantly, violators will be cited rather than arrested and will not be saddled with a criminal record. Connecticut is the 14th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, joining neighboring Massachusetts, which became the 13th state when voters passed an initiative written and sponsored by MPP’s ballot committee in 2008.
Congratulations to Lorenzo Jones and the staff of A Better Way Foundation, and the Drug Policy Alliance, who together led the lobbying effort to pass SB 1014. Also, thanks and congratulations to our members in Connecticut who made calls and sent emails to their legislators in support of this common-sense reform.
Decriminalization is not the magic solution that solves all our problems, but it is a step in the right direction. During the floor debate it was noted that 20 people spent time in a Connecticut jail this year just for possession of a small amount of marijuana and, shockingly, another 10,000-12,000 were arrested for the same. That means, thanks to this bill, thousands of otherwise law-abiding people who simply choose to use a substance safer than alcohol will not be arrested and will not receive criminal records.
Makes sense to me.