Connecticut Prosecutors Drop 1,500 Cannabis Cases
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Connecticut Prosecutors Drop 1,500 Cannabis Cases

Last week, Connecticut’s chief prosecutor reported that more than 1,500 cannabis-related criminal cases have been dismissed by the state’s attorneys. These are not illegal offenses. Chief State’s attorney Patrick J. Griffin, Connecticut’s chief prosecutor, reported in a March 31 letter to a Connecticut legislative panel that prosecutors had dismissed more than 1,500 pending cannabis-related criminal cases. The letters included information about how prosecutors had reviewed over 4,000 cases of drug possession and dropped 1,562 of them. In June 2021, Connecticut lawmakers approved legislation to legalize marijuana for personal use and regulate the production and sale of commercial cannabis. One month later, the possession provisions were in effect and dispensaries began selling recreational marijuana under regulation in December 2022. The legalization statute also provided for the expungement or any other cannabis-related convictions that involved up to four ounces of cannabis. The legislation led to the announcement by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont that he had “eliminated 42,964 cannabis convictions”. However, the expungement provisions didn’t explicitly remove charges for pending marijuana possession cases. This was later clarified in a legislative statement. Griffin stated in a statement that CTInsider cited as saying that the legislature intended for the new cannabis laws “to apply to people with charges pending on or after the date of the law’s implementation.” “Understanding what the legislature intended, the division undertook an expedited examination of its files in order to comply with the legislature’s wishes. The state’s attorneys and their respective offices deserve praise for their efforts and commitment to solving these cases in a timely manner. More than 4,000 Drug Possession Cases Under ReviewThe cases that were pending at the time of the legalization bill’s passage were dropped by prosecutors. Griffin reported to lawmakers that 1,562 charges were dropped and 600 cases that involved multiple charges were amended to remove cannabis charges. Griffin informed lawmakers that his office had been required to review each case involving more than 4,000 cases. He cited state law that combined cannabis with heroin and cocaine, and stated that this was the joint position of the committee and the division. Griffin sent his letter to lawmakers last Wednesday. Griffin wrote to lawmakers last week that his office had to review each of the more than 4,000 pending cases individually. He cited state law that combines cannabis with other controlled substances like heroin and cocaine. Griffin also informed the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee that he sent his letter to them. The committee was considering a new bill to direct state’s attorneys not to prosecute cannabis possession cases. The bill, HB6787, creates a process that allows for automatic sentence modification for all eligible marijuana convictions. Courts are then instructed to decide if release or modification is necessary. The measure was approved by the panel by a vote of 27-10, although Representative Steve Stafstrom, the co-chair of the committee, said that the bill is likely to be amended as it continues through the legislative process.”This clears up confusion that may have been created under the legalization-of-cannabis process, whereby certain offenses that were pending before cannabis legalization remained pending even after that legislation was adopted,” Stafstrom said on March 31. “I want to thank the office of the chief state’s attorney, who I know heard the concerns and the bipartisan concerns of the committee at the public hearing in regards to getting those cases dismissed.” Armentano, the deputy head of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that Griffin’s decision to drop pending marijuana cases was welcomed by cannabis policy reform advocates, including Paul Armentano. “Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that public officials and the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”Sarah Gersten, executive director and general counsel of the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to securing the release of all cannabis prisoners, praised Griffin’s move and urged lawmakers to approve HB-6787.”We applaud Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin for dismissing more than 1,500 pending cannabis cases and modifying approximately 600 others. Gersten sent an email to High Times stating that this announcement is a significant step towards justice in Connecticut. “However, HB6787’s passage remains crucial to ensure that those currently incarcerated have equal opportunity to have sentences reviewed and possibly terminated. It is outrageous that people in Connecticut are still being held for using cannabis, while others are making a profit from the same activity.


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