Fines, Infractions Part Of Gov. Malloy's Plan To Make Punishment Fit Crime

NORWALK, Conn. (CBSNewYork) –– Penalties for possession of marijuana are a signature away from being cut in Connecticut.

CBS 2’s John Slattery reports while new rules don’t legalize pot, some offenders won’t see jail time.

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A half-ounce of marijuana fits in a sandwich bag, and under a new law, such first-time offenders would be fined just $150.

“I think it’s okay. I’m okay with it, yeah,” Norwalk resident Christine Prakis said.

After squeaking through the state Senate, and passing the House, Connecticut pot penalties will be reduced. Governor Dan Malloy said the punishment should fit the crime.

Currently, marijuana possession in Connecticut is a misdemeanor, punishable by a possible year behind bars and a $1,000 fine.

Under the new law, the first offense penalty for a half-ounce is an infraction and a fine. Violators under 21 would face a driver’s license suspension.

In New York, possession of an ounce or less is an infraction and $100 fine. In New Jersey, 2 ounces or less is a disorderly person’s offense, up to six months, and $1,000 fine. Some in Connecticut say the change was needed.

WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau With St. Sen. Edward Meyer

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“There’s no reason to put people in jail for a small amount of marijuana,” Tristan Haller said.

But others disagreed with easing the penalty.

“I don’t think they should soften it. I think it should still have the same penalties,” Luigi Rauccio said.

Norwalk’s police chief said there will be fewer prosecutions, but disagrees with the new law.

“If I were in possession of less than a half ounce of marijuana, I’d be given a ticket like I ran a red light,” Chief Harry Rilling said.

Among opponents to the change are lawmakers who believe that marijuana has ruined the lives of many young people, and that equating it to a speeding ticket is a mistake.

When the new law is signed within the next few weeks, Connecticut will become the 14th state to decriminalize the possession of pot.

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