Inmates serving time for cannabis possession could soon be able to get their sentences reduced thanks to a bill that passed the House of Representatives Thursday.
The bill, which garnered a 138-10 vote, would require judges to schedule hearings to allow defendants to argue for a sentence modification. The bill now heads to the Senate.
Rep. Steven Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, and co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, said the bill is a continuation of lawmakers legalizing recreational cannabis two years ago.
“When this legislature legalized recreational cannabis two years ago, one of the things we recognized was we should undo the harm that the war on drugs, with respect to cannabis, has caused,” he said.
The bill, if approved, would apply to convictions prior to that legalization and would address what Stafstrom described as “simple possession of cannabis.”
It would apply to people convicted of possession and other crimes, but it would make no changes for those found guilty of cannabis-related offenses that remain illegal, including unlicensed sales.
Judges would have six months to schedule hearings for defendants convicted of cannabis possession and other defenses.
If a defendant can show “good cause” for a reduction on cannabis-related offenses — this bill does not address any other crimes — the bill requires the judge to lower the sentencing accordingly.
That can include less prison time or a discharge or probation, with that time being no more than the original sentence.
The original bill also instructed prosecutors to drop any pending marijuana-related possession charges in current cases. Stafstrom said Thursday that prosecutors have done that, dropping thousands of charges statewide.
He said that portion of the bill was now “moot,” the House removed it.
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