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CT continues to prosecute some marijuana cases despite legalization

Top prosecutor testified Wednesday that some cases filed before 2021 still haven’t been dismissed

by Jaden Edison

March 1, 2023 @ 6:31 pm

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Connecticut’s top prosecutor told lawmakers Wednesday that the state is still pursuing criminal action against people previously charged for possession of marijuana, despite a law passed almost two years ago that legalized the adult use and recreational sale of cannabis.

“I would say the answer is yes,” chief state’s attorney Patrick Griffin said in response to a question about whether there are still pending criminal cases for marijuana possession.

Griffin’s remarks came during a public hearing for proposed legislation that would end the prosecution of any ongoing marijuana-related cases if the activity being prosecuted is now decriminalized.

“I will tell you very directly that I’ve had conversations with all 13 state’s attorneys, that we’re in agreement that what is legal today should not be penalized because it occurred prior to the passage of the bill,” Griffin said.

Adult use and possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana has been legal in Connecticut since 2021, and the first marijuana retail shops opened earlier this year. The legalization effort was inspired in part by an effort to right the wrongs of the war on drugs, which disproportionately penalized communities of color.

But the state’s Division of Criminal Justice, overseen by Griffin, still hasn’t dismissed all of the marijuana offenses that have since been legalized.

It is unclear how many marijuana-related criminal cases remain, and Griffin described the difficulties of getting an accurate count given that many drug offenses were grouped under the same statutes. He told legislators that state prosecutors will meet in the coming days to discuss the creation of a policy that would address the matter.