One of the biggest arguments in support of marijuana legalization is that it would save tax payers money by not incarcerating people for a harmless act. Marijuana decriminalization is obviously less desirable than legalization, but it still saves money due to the same principle. Connecticut decriminalized marijuana effective July 1, 2011. According to The Connecticut Post, ‘There were 4,774 arrests under the old law, less-than-four ounces law between July 1 and Dec. 1, 2010. With possession of less than a half-ounce out of the equation, those arrests dropped to 1,127….Add that figure to the 1,956 tickets issued and there is a remaining balance of 1,691 fewer arrests than in 2010.’
That’s a more than 35% decrease in expensive arrests and incarcerations for a harmless act. It also goes to show how many people were getting burned by the Connecticut legal system for a long, long time. It’s sad to think of how many people’s lives, especially young people’s, were ruined because of a marijuana possession offense that made it hard to get financial aid or get a job.
According to Connecticut NORML, the old law stated possession of less than four ounces or drug paraphernalia containing marijuana residue was a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The new law, Public Act 11-71, reduced the penalty for possession of a half ounce or less to a $150 fine ($200 to $500 fine for the second offense, and the fine plus referral to a drug program for the third offense). Offenders under age 21 also get a 60-day driver’s license suspension.
Below is an excerpt from The Connecticut Post:
“Typically, what would happen before the law changed is somebody comes in, they’re arrested with five or six joints — less than a half-ounce — and go to the community service labor program,” Defense Attorney Richard Meehan said. “That required at least three court appearances before the matter was resolved … (And) our Judicial Branch has taken a huge hit with budget cuts.”
One thing that blows my mind is that some police departments didn’t have a scale before this new law took effect. Below is a quote from The Connecticut Post”
“We did purchase a scale for our sergeant’s vehicle,” New Canaan Chief Edward Nadriczny, head of a Fairfield County police chiefs group, said. “If there’s a question, we weigh it and go from there.”
So what did the police do before that is my question? Eye ball it? I’m glad to hear that marijuana consumers in Connecticut are not getting as harsh a punishment as before. Although, I will always dream of the day when there are no penalties for such activities. If you are in Connecticut, now is as good a time as ever to get active! Now that the citizens of Connecticut see that marijuana reform doesn’t lead to the sky falling, they are going to be more receptive to future reforms. Go get ’em Connecticut!