Gov. M. Jodi Rell indicated Monday that she opposes the decriminalization of marijuana, a contentious issue that could come up for a committee vote in the General Assembly as soon as today. Some Democratic legislators have been pushing hard this year for the decriminalization of less than an ounce of marijuana, and Rell had not previously voiced a public view on the bill.
Two of Rell's spokesmen stopped short Monday of using the word "veto," but they both said that Rell opposes the concept.
"The governor opposes illegal drug use and possession," said spokesman Rich Harris. "Whether it's a little or a lot, marijuana is an illegal drug."
Rell traditionally avoids stating her position on bills until they reach her desk, and she rarely mentions a possible veto before the first committee vote is taken.
Rell vetoed a bill that would have legalized the medical use of marijuana in June 2007. Although she said that she, as a cancer survivor, had sympathy for those who wanted to use marijuana for pain management, she said that her sympathy could not overcome her concerns that those seeking to obtain the drug would need to break the law to purchase it.
The medical marijuana bill passed in 2007 by votes of 89-58 in the state House of Representatives and 23-13 in the Senate, which were both shy of the two-thirds margin that was needed in both chambers to override the veto.
This year's bill would reduce the penalty for possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana from the current level of a misdemeanor to an infraction with a maximum fine of $121.
The judiciary committee had considered a possible vote on the proposal Monday, but the matter was postponed because other bills were debated longer than expected. The committee will meet again today at noon as it heads toward a committee deadline Friday for bills during the current legislative session.