Senator Boucher Opposes Lessening Penalties For Marijuana Possession

March 24, 2009

Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) is calling for the General Assembly to reject proposed legislation that would “erode the progress made over the years to combat marijuana usage.”

Senator Boucher recently testified before the legislature’s Judiciary Committee in opposition to Senate Bill 349, An Act Concerning the Penalty for Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana. Specifically, the bill would decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana by classifying it as an infraction. Currently, first time offenders convicted of possessing up to four ounces of marijuana are subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 and, or, a maximum prison sentence of one year. Subsequent offenses are subject to a maximum fine of $3,000 and, or, a maximum prison sentence of five years.

“It seems surreal that the same General Assembly that legislatively addresses quality of life and health issues, like trans-fat and second hand smoke, would ever consider a bill that decriminalizes a substance which has such noxious effects. No elected official can ignore the social and health consequences that marijuana use imposes on the people of this country – particularly children who are much more vulnerable to harm and addiction. This bill undermines all the work and effort of drug prevention advocates and would put Connecticut on a path detrimental to the health and well being of its residents,” said Senator Boucher.

Senator Boucher challenged bill proponents who claim that passing the bill would produce costs savings during this difficult economic time. Also, she pointed to research showing that most inmates convicted of marijuana possession were also charged with more serious crimes, and many enter guilty pleas to marijuana charges to avoid the more serious charges.

“The number of less than one ounce marijuana possession cases is not even close to being significant enough to impact the caseload. The courts will still operate during business hours and prosecutors and staff will still have plenty of cases to process. Less than one ounce possession cases are only a small drop in the judicial case backlog . . . The cost to our health care system, substance abuse treatment centers, mental health centers, and our foster care system would wipe out any previous savings it may potentially generate at first. This bill would still not accomplish the financial savings that the proponents proclaim,” said Senator Boucher.

Senator Boucher said that evidence of the dangerous health effects of marijuana usage and the detrimental effects of illegal drug use on society should be enough to convince the General Assembly to reject this proposed legislation.

“There is a great deal of research available on the effects of smoked marijuana. In Connecticut alone, Yale University and the University of Connecticut Medical Societies have determined that smoked marijuana causes damages to the brain, heart, immune system, and lungs, as well as impairing learning and memory, and perception and judgment. There is now conclusive evidence that smoking marijuana gives you greater exposure to cancerous chemicals than from tobacco, said Senator Boucher, adding that research also shows a correlation between marijuana usage and an increased risk for developing mental disorders.