As of today, July 1 in Connecticut, getting caught with less than half an ounce of marijuana no longer gets you a ride in the back seat of a police car.
Instead, people older than 21 who are caught with up to 14 grams will be given the equivalent of a traffic ticket carrying a $150 fine, reports David Owens at The Hartford Courant. If you’re 18 to 21, you’ll get the same ticket, but with a 60-day suspension of your driver’s license. Those under 1`8 will be referred to juvenile authorities if caught with pot.
Fines for subsequent offenses by adults range from $200 to $500. If you get three or more marijuana offenses, you’ll be required to take some of those bullshit “drug counseling” sessions are your own expense.
Police will still conduct field tests to determine if material they find is marijuana. If it is, they’ll confiscate the pot and keep it as evidence until the case is resolved, then destroy it.
Some local police departments have bought portable scales to help officers determine whether they’re dealing with a crime or an infraction when they find cannabis. But in most cases, police will simply apply their experience.
“You can pretty much eyeball it,” said Vernon police Capt. Stephen Clark. “Most experienced officers can tell what’s under half an ounce.”
“It’s simply procedural,” said Farmington police Lt. William Tyler. “If they have good identification at the scene, they’ll be written a ticket at the scene.”
|Photo: Brad Horrigan/New Haven Register|
|West Hartford Police Chief James Strillacci: “In many, many cases, it’s your foot in the door. You stop somebody, you roll down the window, you smell the marijuana.”|
As with anything new, there are some uncertainties. Unfortunately, finding marijuana will likely still often be seen as a “first step” in a fishing expedition, and it will allow police to search a car of person for evidence of other “crimes.”
After marijuana was decriminalized in neighboring Massachusetts, the commonwealth’s Supreme Court ruled that the smell of cannabis is no longer enough to give officers probable cause to search a suspect or their vehicle.
And the old-school way of dealing with marijuana and its users isn’t going to be given up easily by the cops; as shown by the following frank quote from a law enforcement official.
“In many, many cases, it’s your foot in the door,” said West Hartford police Chief James Strillacci. “You stop somebody, you roll down the window, you smell the marijuana. One thing leads to another and before you know it you find you’ve got stolen goods in the car [or]evidence of another crime.”
“It’s going to make for some interesting case law,” Strillacci said.
Lt. Tyler of the Farmington Police Department said he doesn’t anticipate a problem.
“A car search is based on odor,” he said. “A car will still be searched because an odor doesn’t indicate if it’s less than half an ounce.”
It seems not to have occurred to the literally minded Lt. Tyler that a smell also doesn’t indicate if it’s more than half an ounce — and he seems unfamiliar with the Massachusetts case which decided just that.