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Greenwich Teens Mixed on Pot Decriminalization

Greenwich teens are split on Connecticut’s passage of a bill to decriminalize marijuana. “I’ve never done drugs of any kind, but I feel like it won’t change drug usage,” said Alecia King, a junior at Greenwich High School. “It’s a nice thing that kids won’t be sent off to jail for having it, though.”

The state House of Representatives passed legislation to decriminalize marijuana, 90-57. Supporters of the bill call it “common sense reform.” The measure passed the Senate last week in a tie-breaking vote by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has given his support of the bill, saying, “The punishment should fit the crime.” He has promised to sign the bill into law.

“Let’s be clear — we are not making marijuana legal, and we are not allowing people who use it and get caught to avoid the repercussions,” Malloy said in a statement. “But we are acknowledging the reality that we do more harm than good when we prosecute people who are caught using marijuana.”

Under current state law, marijuana possession is classified as a misdemeanor and is punishable by a possible jail term and hefty fines. Decriminalization will make the punishment for possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana a $150 fine for a first offense and $200 to $500 for any offenses thereafter.

“For teens, I think it just encourages them to smoke more,” said Annie Munro, another junior at Greenwich High School. “But I do think it’s good for people who do it who are in pain and need it for medical uses. It’s cool not to have harsher penalties in that case.”

Those under 21 would face a 60-day driver’s license suspension, which is similar to the state’s current punishment for underage alcohol possession. Malloy has said current laws for marijuana possession stigmatizes people needlessly “in a way we would not if they were caught drinking underage.”

Greenwich High junior Austin, who preferred not to give his last name, said he agreed with decriminalization and hoped it would be the first step in statewide legalization. “I have friends who have less than an ounce and get sent to court, but now they’ll just get fined, which is still ridiculous.”

Anyone 18 or younger found with less than a half-ounce would be referred to state juvenile courts. Those convicted more than twice would be referred to a drug education program.

If signed, Connecticut will join Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon as states that have decriminalized marijuana.

Greenwich Reps. Fred Camillo, R-151st District, and Lile Gibbons, R-150th District, voted against the bill. Rep. Livvy FLoren, R-149th District, voted yes.

Where do you stand on marijuana decriminalization in Connecticut? Comment below or send responses to ahelhoski@mainstreetconnect.us.

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