Connecticut prosecutors have dismissed more than 1,500 pending marijuana cases, while modifying about 600 others, following a review as part of the state’s post-legalization criminal erasure program.
Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffen submitted a report to members of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee on Friday showing that the review involved individualized examinations of 4,248 cases involving controlled substances.
Prosecutors in each of Connecticut’s 13 judicial districts were tasked with identifying and clearing convictions for activity made legal under the cannabis bill that Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed into law last year.
As Griffen pointed out, state statute previously did not distinguish marijuana cases from other drugs that remain prohibited, so there wasn’t a simple way to automate the process. The case-by-case review ultimately led to 1,562 convictions being eliminated. Another 624 cases that involved multiple crimes were modified to remove marijuana charges.
“With 4,248 cases statewide containing this charge (2,139 pending and 2,109 in re-arrest status) this was no small task, and quite labor intensive,” the letter to lawmakers, which was first reported by Hearst Connecticut Media Group., says. “Nonetheless, given the Committee’s expressed concerns, I represented to you that resolving these cases would be treated as a priority by the Division without the need for further legislation in this area.”
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The note about “further legislation” is a reference to a bill that the Joint Judiciary Committee has been working and passed in a 27-10 vote on Friday. It would direct the state Division of Criminal Justice to cease prosecutions of future and pending cannabis-only cases that were not covered under the legalization law.
Rep. Steven Stafstrom (D), co-chair of the committee, said during Friday’s hearing that the action by the chief state’s attorney’s office may remove the need for some of the bill’s language as drafted—and he expects it to be amended before reaching the House floor—but the overall legislation is still necessary to provide more comprehensive relief for people whose cases weren’t covered under the legalization law.
For example, it also contains sentencing modification provisions for those who were convicted prior to legalization.
“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.
Watch the committee consider the cannabis bill, about 19:40 into the video below:
Gov. Ned Lamont (D), meanwhile, announced in January that the state had cleared nearly 43,000 records for marijuana-related convictions. The legalization legislation that he signed into law in 2021 empowered the state government to facilitate mass cannabis conviction relief.
The state also launched a web portal in January that provides residents with information about the status of their cannabis records and also guides those with older eligible convictions that weren’t automatically erased through the process of petitioning the courts for relief.
Lamont has embraced the state’s adult-use market, which launched at the beginning of the year, saying that he’s optimistic that it will mitigate illicit sales.
He also joked that one of his concerns about the cannabis industry rollout would be finding a place in line at one of the dispensaries. He wasn’t being serious, but the governor previously didn’t rule out the idea of participating in the legal marketplace.
Meanwhile, last month, a Connecticut legislative committee approved a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of psilocybin mushrooms
Read the Chief State’s Attorney letter to lawmakers on dropping marijuana cases below:
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