Connecticut partially decriminalized marijuana in 2011 but that does not mean that all marijuana use or possession is legal. Marijuana is still a prohibited substance, but decriminalization means that the possession of certain quantities does not trigger criminal penalties. Simple possession of higher quantities of marijuana, as well as other controlled substances (e.g. cocaine, heroin and opiates, amphetamines, crack, MDMA, LSD, etc.), is now a misdemeanor. Sale--which includes distribution without a sale and possession with intent to sell--is still a felony. Some drug charges carry mandatory prison time. There is a diversionary program for possessory drug offenses, the Pretrial Drug Education and Community Service Program, which if successfully completed, would lead to the dismissal of the charges.
Marijuana Laws in Connecticut
Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 21a-279c provides that a person who possesses or controls less than half an ounce of a cannabis substance shall be fined not more than $150 for a first offense and $200 to $500 for each subsequent offense. In addition to the fines, the police must confiscate the marijuana. Violating this law does not result in a criminal conviction.
Possession of drug paraphernalia is also decriminalized if it relates to a half-ounce or less of marijuana. However, possession of paraphernalia is criminal if used for more than a half-ounce of marijuana or other illegal drugs.
Possession of more than a half-ounce of marijuana is still a crime and exposes a person to higher fines, jail time, and a criminal record. Possession of marijuana within 1500 feet of a school, daycare center, or housing project is a felony that carries mandatory jail time. Additionally, the decriminalization law applies only to the simple possession of marijuana, and not to possession with intent to sell or distribute.
While possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana is no longer a criminal offense, minors in possession (persons younger than 21 years old) may face suspension of drivers’ licenses and privileges in much the same way as if they were in possession of alcohol underage. Sec. 14-111e (as amended by P.A. 11-71) extends to allow DMV to suspend the driver’s license and/or driving privileges of an underage person convicted of non-criminal marijuana possession for 60 days. Although it is best to plead not guilty and contest marijuana tickets, you can still avoid the suspension if you paid the ticket. Read here about how we can reopen your case to stop and fight a suspension that has already been imposed.