In a special session Saturday at the Capitol, the Connecticut Senate passed legislation that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman cast the deciding vote after an initial 18-18 tie.
While opponents of the bill, Governor's Bill 1014, said it sends the wrong message, proponents said the legislation will help young people arrested for marijuana possession to avoid a criminal record that could hurt their chances to find a good job or enter college.
Possession of any amount of marijuana in Connecticut currently can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a criminal record. The bill the Senate approved Saturday evening would carry a $150 fine and no criminal record for those caught with a half-ounce or less. After the first offense the fine would be between $200 and $500.
Those under 21 years old would face a 60-day driver's license suspension, similar to the existing penalty for possessing alcohol.
The bill also requires anyone 18 years old or younger who is caught with less than a half-ounce to be referred to the state's juvenile courts.
Shortly after the bill passed, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former prosecutor, urged the House of Representatives to pass the decriminalization bill before the session ends. He called it a "commonsense" reform to the criminal justice system.
All 14 Republicans voted against the bill, as did Democrats Joan Hartley, Gayle Slossberg, Paul Doyle and Edward Meyer, resulting in an 18-18 tie. Wyman, who as lieutenant governor is presiding officer of the Senate, broke the tie in favor of the bill, her first exercise of the power since taking office in January.