Pubdate: Fri, 13 May 2011
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2011 The Hartford Courant
Author: Daniela Altimari
Bookmark: (Connecticut)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Senate Majority Leader Says There's Not Enough Support In That Body

HARTFORD - The drive to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana
appears to be coming up short in the legislature this year.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, conceded Friday
that a bill to soften the penalty for possession of a half-ounce of
pot or less does not currently have enough support in the chamber.

"We did have a caucus last week and we were somewhat short of the
number to pass it with purely Democratic votes," Looney said. "We may
circle back around to that issue again."

"You can't do everything in one year," he said.

The bill would make the penalty for possession of a half-ounce of
marijuana or less akin to receiving a speeding ticket. The punishment
would be a fine rather than criminal penalties. Currently, possession
of less than 4 ounces of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in
prison and a $1,000 fine.

Looney and other supporters say decriminalizing pot would free up
criminal-justice resources to investigate unsolved crimes and focus on
violent criminals. Thirteen states, including Massachusetts and New
York, have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana,
according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana

Opponents say the cost savings are overblown. Senate Republican leader
John McKinney of Fairfield said that the bill is "tantamount to the
legalization of marijuana" and that he does not believe any Senate
Republicans back it.

"For me personally, it is one of -- if not the -- worst bill that I've
seen in my 13 years in the legislature," McKinney said. "It will only
increase drug use, it will only increase addiction. It's a bad road to
go down."

While the chances of passing the decriminalization bill are greatly
diminished, a bill legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes appears
to have more support, Looney said.

If that bill were to pass, the state could not prosecute people for
possession of marijuana if they had written certification from their
physician allowing them to use it. A patient would need to be
certified as having a debilitating condition, such as cancer,
glaucoma, AIDS, Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis. The bill
would allow the possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, and up to
four marijuana plants, provided they were no more than 4 feet high.

Lawmakers passed a medical marijuana bill in 2007, but Gov. M. Jodi
Rell vetoed it. This year, the measure has the support of Gov. Dannel
P. Malloy.  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake