By Luke Hammerman
12:15 PM EDT, June 15, 2011
The state's new pot law will decriminalize the possession of small amounts of weed. Previously the possession of any amount of marijuana was a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Now possession of less than half an ounce of weed is punishable by a fine of $150 and a driver's license suspension for 60 days for those under 21 years of age.
Many feel the law is a good first step towards a more realistic drug policy.
“It is a step in the right direction, because I very much believe it should be legalized and taxed,” says James Schiele, who works at Torrington head shop Wasteland. “If a law-abiding adult should choose to relax by smoking a joint it is no different from having a beer. No one has overdosed from cannabis but every year there are thousands of alcohol-related deaths.”
Weed enthusiasts applaud the law as a push for change in public opinion. “The federal government has made weed seem like this scary drug when it is not. Things like Prozac and over-the-counter drugs when combined are much worse,” says a local stoner who did not want to be identified by name but who requested that she be referred to as “Local Stoner.”
Politicians who do not support the law argued that becoming less strict about pot will cause more people to start smoking pot. Head shops and smokers disagree.
“I don't think people are going to start smoking because of this law, but the smokers will keep on smoking,” Jill Annati, who works at the Bench Shop in Willimantic, says. Annati and Schiele say the sale of their tobacco smoking products and glassware has not been affected at all by hype about the new law.
Those who oppose the law include Captain AJ Perez, head of Narcotics and Vice in Bridgeport. “I am not a proponent of this bill,” he says. “I believe and always have believed that marijuana is a gateway drug. I see kids everyday come in here for harsher drugs all of whom who started with smoking marijuana.”
Despite the opposing views, both sides agree the new law is a time- and money-saver. “One of the things I am happiest about is that we won't waste tax dollars on wrongfully imprisoning people for carrying trace amounts of weed when they are just looking to have a good time and relax,” Local Stoner says.
Even so, cannabis culture is not getting its hopes too high. “Hopefully it leads to medical use,” Local Stoner says. “That is where we could see a positive effect of this drug.”