One of the big reasons Sen. Martin Looney is citing as he pitches his marijuana decriminalization bill is that the measure would actually save the state a considerable amount of money. And in these times, the idea of saving some money makes lawmakers sit up and take notice (even if it doesn’t help them meet statutory deadlines).
The bill “represents a compassionate and pragmatic policy,” Looney said. “Our state should not encourage illegal drug use. However, possession of marijuana for personal use should not leave a person with a lifelong criminal record.”
The majority leader also argued the bill would save money — reducing costs to police departments, the court system, and the offices of the public defenders and the state’s attorneys.
According to the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, there were 9,928 marijuana arrests in Connecticut in 2007, which represented about 7 percent of arrests statewide. It’s estimated that approximately 33 percentof those arrests were for possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana.
OFA estimates the bill could save state government $11 million a year and generate $320,000.
The problem, of course, is that in 2007 Gov. Rell vetoed a bill legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. This bill could meet with a similar fate, even if it passes the legislature. Then again, the governor is now someone who favors saving money more than anything else, so anything is possible.
Phaneuf, Keith. “Senate leader backs bill to decriminalize marijuana.” Journal-Inquirer 25 March, 2009.