The Business Council of Fairfield County held its annual legislative breakfast this morning.
Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk spent time fielding questions from Joe McGee, the council’s vice president of public policy.
As expected much of the discussion focused on how lawmakers intend to deal with the state’s fiscal crisis and two year budget.
But near the end McGee asked the group their thoughts on a bill by Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven to remove criminal penalities for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana (punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and a year in jail).
McGee told the panel it was not a topic he’d planned to broach but three audience members submitted questions about it.
Perhaps the economic crisis has a lot of business folks smoking pot for a little relaxation after a stressful day of watching profits shrink and costs rise?
For the record, Cafero and McKinney both said they were against Looney’s bill, even though in tough budget times it could save the state $11 million in enforcement costs.
“I’m all for saving money,” Cafero said. But he said lessening penalities for marijuana use will only encourage school students to use it recreationally.
Cafero maintains this will hurt their education and, ultimately, cost the state money in the future.
“If we send the message possessing and using marijuana to that degree is not a biggee, we’re in trouble,” Cafero said.
Williams said he believes it is worth examining the issue. But he disagrees with Looney’s proposed fine of up to $121 for possession. Williams said that is not enough.
The penalty is currently a maximum $1,000 fine and one year in jail.
“I don’t disagree with Larry,” Williams said. “Maybe a significant fine versus criminal charges would be more appropriate.”