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Greenwich Teens Back Decriminalizing Pot

Greenwich High School students say Gov. Dan Malloy’s proposal to reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana wouldn’t significantly change its use.

“I feel as if so many people do pot, [and] there are so many drugs, that kids are just going to do it anyway,” says Greenwich High student Hannah Balikci. “I have a lot of friends who do pot, but I feel like by decriminalizing it and having a fine, it’s almost better.”

Malloy wants the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to be reduced from a crime to an infraction. Currently, possession of less than four ounces can bring a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Malloy says offenders should pay just a $100 fine, arguing that these cases waste law enforcement resources and stigmatize young people.

“I think because they know it’s illegal, it gives them an extra motivation to do it, like it is with alcohol,” says Victoria Meskers, another Greenwich High student. “Decriminalizing it will make it not as big a deal.”

The subject of the legality of marijuana hits home for Malloy. In 2007, police accused his son Benjamin of selling pot, and in 2009 Benjamin was arrested for robbing a Darien man of his marijuana while armed with a BB gun. Benjamin was sentenced to five years’ probation for the robbery.

Greenwich High sophomore Patrick McAuley supports the governor’s plan, but says it isn’t enough. “I’m for there being no fine. I think it should be probably the same age limit as alcohol,” he says. “I understand there are risks associated with it, but I think there’s risks associated with everything.”

A proposal similar to Malloy's was introduced in the state legislature in 2009, but fears that then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell would veto the bill prevented it from going to a full vote.

Lt. Kraig Gray, spokesman for the Greenwich Police Department, wouldn’t comment on the proposed legislation. “Police officers’ job is to enforce the law,” he says. “It’s up to the legislators to decide on what the laws are. If they change the law, we’ll change our enforcement.”

In a recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 67 percent of Connecticut voters said they would approve the decriminalization of a small amount of marijuana, and 32 percent were opposed.

Do you agree with the governor's proposal? Comment below or send your response to ahelhoski@mainstreetconnect.us.

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