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The Baltimore Sun

CT Decriminalizes Marijuana: 'Common Sense Reform'

First step, folks.

Both houses of the Connecticut General Assembly approved a bill decriminalizing marijuana, which is soon expected to be sign by Governor Malloy.

So what's fair game now? The possession of less than 1/2-ounce of cannabis is no longer a misdemeanor. Instead, a $150 fine will be issued ($200-$500 for further offenses). A weird alcohol-policy-esque addition states a 60-day driver's license suspension for those younger than 21.

May not seem like much, but current laws mandate fines of $1000 to $3000, and possible jail time.

How did votes break down? An 18-18 tie in Senate was broken by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, while the House has a larger margin with votes split 90-57.

There were a number of opponents to the bill, citing safety concerns and concerns of pot's role as a "gateway drug". Among them was Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield), who said, ""For me, a policy that lessens the severity of drug use is a bad one," he said. "I don't believe we should just give up."

Conversely, Malloy who called this legislation "common sense reform", said that the state is "doing more harm than good when we prosecute people who are caught using marijuana -- needlessly stigmatizing them in a way they would not if they were caught drinking underage."

State Sen. Toni Boucher, who actively spoke against the bill in the deliberations, says that Malloy has a personal interest in the matter, given his son's history with selling and using the drug (resulted in a 2007 arrest, too). The senator also spoke against this "first step" of a process: “The groups promoting these bills have stated so—the ultimate design is for full legalization."

CT is the 14th state in the US to decriminalize cannabis possession.

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