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Hartford DUI defense attorney marijuana impairmentThe United States has a long and complicated history with cannabis. Back in colonial times, hemp -- which is a non-intoxicating strain of the cannabis plant -- was a very important crop for early settlers. Virginia even passed a law in 1619 requiring every farm in the colony to grow hemp. By 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed and effectively banned the sale and use of marijuana, though the act was replaced by the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970s.

Now that 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, and 33 states have legalized medical marijuana, the prevalence of marijuana-related DUI is of concern to lawmakers across the country. In the state of Connecticut, medical marijuana is legal, but recreational marijuana is not legal -- yet.

Current Connecticut Marijuana DUI Laws

Like most states, Connecticut’s laws concerning DUI mostly refer to alcohol, but they do mention drugs as well. According to Connecticut law, operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating drug is illegal. Penalties for a drug DUI can vary, depending on the circumstances of the case. For a basic DUI charge of operating a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, a conviction can get you up to a six-month jail sentence, $500 to $1,000 in fines, and a 45-day driver’s license suspension, with the requirement that an ignition interlock device be installed in the driver’s vehicle for one year after the conviction.

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Connecticut criminal defense attorneyThe evolution of the public’s attitude toward marijuana over the last few decades has been an interesting phenomenon to witness. The use of the drug has been long associated with a particular lifestyle—and, largely, a certain type of person. While such stereotypes were often inaccurate and potentially discriminatory, they have started to fall away in recent years.

Much of the change has come from the recognition that marijuana seems to have medicinal and palliative uses—so much so that 33 states have established legal, medical cannabis programs. In 10 states, however, it is legal for adults age 21 and over to purchase and use marijuana for recreational purposes. Among these states is our neighbor to the north, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As the sale of recreational marijuana begins in Massachusetts, law enforcement officials here in Connecticut are reminding citizens that the drug is still illegal in the Constitution State.

The Law in Connecticut

In 2011, Connecticut lawmakers decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana—less than a half-ounce—but decriminalizing the drug is not the same as legalizing it. Those who are found to be in possession of a small amount of marijuana can be cited for a civil violation and may face fines of up $150 for a first offense and $500 for a second offense. Possession of greater amounts of the drug is still a crime, however, and a conviction could lead to $2000 in fines and up to a year in jail.

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