Toni Boucher Leads Opposition to Decriminalization of Marijuana

June 4, 2011

Hartford, CT – State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) today led opposition to passage of a controversial bill that will decriminalize the possession of less than ½ ounce of marijuana in the State of Connecticut. It is estimated that as many as 30 – 60 joints can be made out of ½ ounce of marijuana.

Despite Senator Boucher’s impassioned opposition, the bill passed the State Senate 19-18, with Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman casting the tie-breaking vote. All 14 Senate Republicans voted against the measure. The bill now heads to the State House of Representatives where it is expected to pass and be signed into law by Governor Dannel P. Malloy.

Possession of ½ ounce of marijuana is currently a crime punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail. Under the new law, punishment for the same offense is reduced to a violation with a $150 fine for a first offense; a $200 – $500 fine for subsequent offenses.

“What kind of message does this send to our children?” asked Senator Boucher. “This law undermines a fundamental lesson that our schools, social service programs and parents teach our children: that taking drugs is bad for you.”

Senator Boucher said that while she was disappointed by passage of the legislation, she was not surprised given the political realities in Hartford where Democrats control both Houses of the legislature and the Governor’s office.

“The new administration is pushing an agenda that is fiscally and socially more liberal than what the vast majority of Connecticut residents are comfortable with. My fear is that this law will be the first step toward legalization of marijuana in our state.”

Despite these political obstacles, Senator Boucher was pleased the Senate adopted an amendment she offered to “make a bad bill better” by requiring repeat offenders to be referred to drug education and treatment programs after a third offense.

First in the State House of Representatives and now in the State Senate, Senator Boucher has been fighting efforts to legalize marijuana for nearly a decade. Today, she reiterated the research, arguments and personal stories that have inspired her opposition.

She closed her remarks on the Senate floor by relaying the words of a New Haven 7th grade child who lost both parents to drug addiction and spent 14 years in foster care. Senator Boucher read the child’s comment, “Drugs took my birth parents away.” Senator Boucher pleaded with he fellow State Senators, “let’s not do something we will be sorry for” so that no other child will feel that pain.

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. A marijuana cigarette is four times as potent as one tobacco cigarette producing tumors, respiratory and heart ailments. There is now conclusive evidence that smoking marijuana gives you greater exposure to cancerous chemicals than from tobacco.

Far reaching psychological damage may also be caused by marijuana use, including mental illness, psychosis, paranoia, depression and a much higher rate of schizophrenia. The fatty tissues of the brain and reproductive organs can also be negatively affected by smoking marijuana to the point of producing birth defects.

According to A Drug Free America, gram for gram, marijuana contains more cancer causing agents and higher levels of ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and nitric oxide than tobacco.

Studies have also linked pot to the loss of motor skills, increase heart rate, and impairing the ability of the body’s T-Cells to fight off infections. The drug treatment centers of Connecticut site that 60% of their admissions are now for marijuana addiction.

“While the efforts put forth by my legislative colleagues to make a bad bill better are very much appreciated, I feel that in my heart of hearts, this legislation is the wrong direction for our state,” said Senator Boucher. “While I am deeply disappointed by the passage of this bill, I will continue to fight the legalization of this harmful drug in our state.”