With a recent Quinnipiac University poll showing overwhelming 79 percent support for medical marijuana, the Legislature and governor appear poised to reform cannabis laws in Connecticut.
A hearing began on Monday to discuss legalizing marijuana for people with serious medical problems and decriminalizing small amounts of it for recreational users, reports Jeff Stoecker at NBC Connecticut.
"Our state should not encourage illegal drug possession and use; however, possession of small amounts of illicit substances and related paraphernalia for personal use should not leave a person with a life-long criminal record," said Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, a Democrat who represents New Haven and Hamden, of the decrim bill.
|Photo: Melissa Bailey|
|Connecticut Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney: "These citizens deserve compassion rather than arrest"|
"The current law forces police officers in Connecticut to waste hour after hour chasing marijuana users, arresting them and processing their cases," said John Lorenzo, a former chief of marine police with the Lake Lillnonah Authority, reports WFSB. "If we decriminalized marijuana in this state, police could solve more burglaries, rapes and murders, and it would free up jail space and save the dollars wasted on keeping otherwise ordinary citizens incarcerated."
"Marijuana prohibition does nothing to protect public safety," Lorenzo said. "It only threatens it."
Lorenzo is associated with the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international group of police officers, judges, corrections officials, border agents and other criminal justice professionals opposed to the Drug War.
The Legislature already voted, back in 2007, to legalize medical marijuana, but then-Governor M. Jodi Rell vetoed it.
"These citizens deserve compassion rather than arrest, fines, court costs, property forfeiture, incarceration, probation and criminal records," Looney said of the medical marijuana bill.
The medical marijuana bill would require patients to register with the Department of Consumer Protection, reports Erin Cox at WTNH. Their doctor would have to certify there is a medical need for cannabis. Another proposal would license people to grow marijuana for medical use.
Yet another bill, proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, would reduce penalties for people who have less than an ounce of marijuana. They would be charged with an infraction, equivalent to a parking ticket, and would be charged at $100 fine.
The decriminalization efforts fit well with Gov. Malloy's attempts to reduce Connecticut's prison population, which is now at its lowest level in decades.
Several other states, including neighboring Massachusetts, have already decriminalized marijuana possession.
Gov. Malloy wants to allow judges the option of issuing home arrest for nonviolent drug offenses involving less than four ounces of marijuana.