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Fairfield Leaders Split on Pot Decriminalization

?Gov. Dannel Malloy praised the state legislature’s decision to decriminalize marijuana last week. But Fairfield’s John McKinney , the leading Republican in the Senate, is not sure the change in law is a good plan for the state’s children.

“We’ve decided that it’s OK to tell our young kids that smoking marijuana is no worse than getting a speeding ticket,” McKinney said in a radio interview last week.

Both the state House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill last week that reduces the penalties for carrying small amounts of marijuana. For adults, the new penalty for possession of less than a half-ounce of the drug is a $150 fine for first offenses and $200 to $250 thereafter.

For those under 21, the punishment would be comparable to underage drinking — a six-month drivers’ license suspension. Kids under 18 caught with the drug would be referred to juvenile courts, with second offenses leading to a mandated drug rehabilitation program.

Malloy said he will sign the law. “Let me make it clear — we are not legalizing the use of marijuana,” he said in a statement. “In modifying this law, we are recognizing that the punishment should fit the crime, and acknowledging the effects of its application.”

Fairfield’s representatives in the General Assembly were split on the bill. McKinney, the town’s state senator, spoke out against the bill before the vote June 4, which needed a tiebreaking vote from Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman to pass. He told the story of his older sister, whom he said turned to harder drugs after starting with marijuana.

In the House, Rep. Tony Hwang, R-134th District, was one of the state’s 57 “no” votes. But Fairfield’s other two delegates, Brenda Kupchick, R-132nd District, and Kim Fawcett, D-133rd District, were among the 90 votes for approval. Before the vote, Kupchick said she was conflicted.

“I understand some of the concerns that marijuana is a gateway drug, and that we’re sending a message to young people that marijuana is okay, and that it might make them use other drugs,” Kupchick said. “That might be true, that might not be true. I’m not really sure.”

What do you think about decriminalizing marijuana? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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