WILTON, Conn. – State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), ranking member of the Education Committee, is sharply criticizing a proposal to eliminate drug-free school zones surrounding school property for anyone who possesses drugs and reduces all felony drug possession charges to a misdemeanor.
Lavielle represents Wilton, Norwalk, and Westport.
The legislation, SB 952, was moved forward by the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee April 10 in the dead of night, with a 22-20 vote.
It would make the possession of any quantity of a narcotic or controlled substance a misdemeanor offense. It also shrinks the size of current drug-free school zones, for the purposes of possession, from 1,500 feet around school property to include only the school property itself.
“Under this proposal, anyone can get away with a slap on the wrist for possessing unlimited amounts of drugs like heroin, cocaine, or marijuana within sight of a school as long as it happens on the opposite side of the street," said Lavielle, who helped to defeat a 2014 proposal to shrink drug-free school zones in the Education Committee.
“One of our highest priorities on the Committee is keeping children safe at school,” said Lavielle. “How does making it easier for people to possess and use drugs in close proximity to children do that? How is it possible to argue that this proposal makes sense? We must do everything possible to defeat it.”
Proponents of the bill say its intent is to give drug offenders a second chance by making drug possession a misdemeanor. In his public hearing testimony on the bill, Connecticut’s Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane disputed the notion that those arrested for first-time drug possession are serving time in prison.
Kane testified that the reality is persons who commit criminal acts, including possession of illicit drugs, are given multiple opportunities, some as the result of diversionary programs and some as a result of the careful consideration of the prosecutor, to avoid criminal convictions.
Because it involves schools, the bill may be referred to the legislature’s Education Committee, where Lavielle is the House Ranking Member.
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