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marijuana, decriminalization, Connecticut Criminal Defense LawyerAttitudes across the country are changing when it comes to marijuana and the punishment for marijuana possession, and Connecticut is no exception. According to Connecticut law, the state currently carries fines and criminal penalties for certain levels of possession. Possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana carries a $150 fine for the first offense. Penalties become increasingly harsh with frequency of offense: a second offense can carry up to a $500 penalty. Third-time offenders will have to attend drug education classes, which will be paid for by their own means. The more substance, the higher the penalty as well: if a person has more than a half-ounce but less than 4 ounces of cannabis he or she can face up to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison, or both. These penalties were enacted in 2011, making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil violation instead of a criminal offense, as it had been in previous years.

Even still, in light of legalization in Washington and Colorado and decriminalization of marijuana in many other states, these punishments can seem unduly tough. This is perhaps one reason attitudes in Connecticut are changing toward the necessity of strict penalties for marijuana possession and recreational use.

In recent months, the Connecticut state legislature seems ready to discuss further decriminalization and even possible legalization. Representative Edwin Vargas and Representative Juan Candelaria have both introduced house bills that would replace prohibition of marijuana with restrictive legalization for adult use. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, a recent study out of Quinnipiac University found that the majority of Connecticut voters support legalization of marijuana for adults: 52 percent of all voters supported such a measure, as did 80 percent of voters under the age of 30.

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marijuana DUI, Connecticut drug crimes lawyerThe decriminalization of marijuana is a growing trend nationwide. In Washington and Colorado, marijuana has been legalized, while in almost half the states—including Connecticut—it may be used legally only for medical purposes. However, there may be a darker side to these trends: a recent study shows that the number of marijuana-related automobile fatalities has risen sharply in the last decade. The data suggest that drugged driving may be an increasingly common cause of car accidents.

According to a report by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, the presence of non-alcohol drugs in the systems of drivers involved in fatal car crashes has been on the rise and has tripled in the last decade. Using data from the states that routinely test the blood of drivers involved in fatal car accidents, the study reported that in 1999, 4.2 percent of drivers who were killed in automobile crashes tested positive for marijuana; in 2010, that number increased to 12.2 percent. The major increase was shown across all ages and in both genders.

The study also showed that alcohol use was more prevalent than drug use in drivers involved in fatal crashes, but that percentage has stayed relatively stable. The presence of all non-alcohol drugs increased from 16.6 percent in 1999 to 28.3 percent in 2010. This increase may be attributable to the decriminalization of marijuana as well as the national opioid use epidemic. While all states have laws prohibiting impaired driving, the national trend toward permitting at least limited marijuana use may be a factor in the increased number of drugged-driving incidents.

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marijuana, drug possession, drug charges, criminal charges, Stamford drug charges, criminal defense lawyerWhether you already have a criminal record, or a marijuana drug possession charge is your first offense, you should take your case seriously and hire a criminal attorney. In Connecticut, there are several different types of charges you might be facing if you are caught with marijuana and you are not protected under Connecticut medical marijuana laws.

If you are arrested with less than 4 ounces of marijuana, you could be facing a fine of $1,000 and, you could be sentenced to up to a year in jail. Any case involving higher quantities of marijuana can have more severe consequences.

Even young adults can face penalties if caught with marijuana: for possession of less than 5 ounces or possession of drug paraphernalia related to less than 5 ounces of marijuana, a juvenile under the age of 16 will have their license suspended for at least 60 days. Youth aged 17-21 will face fines and driver’s license suspension as well. Juveniles may also need to attend drug counseling and complete a certain number of community service hours.

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