OFFICE OF FISCAL ANALYSIS

Legislative Office Building, Room 5200

Hartford, CT 06106 (860) 240-0200

http: //www. cga. ct. gov/ofa

sSB-349

AN ACT CONCERNING THE PENALTY FOR POSSESSION OF A SMALL AMOUNT OF MARIJUANA.

OFA Fiscal Note

State Impact:

Agency Affected

Fund-Effect

FY 10 $

FY 11 $

Public Safety, Dept. ; Correction, Dept. ; Criminal Justice, Div. ; Judicial Dept. ; Pub. Defender Serv. Com.

GF - Potential Savings

See Below

See Below

Judicial Dept.

GF - Revenue Gain

Up to $675,000

Up to $900,000

Note: GF=General Fund

Municipal Impact:

Municipalities

Effect

FY 10 $

FY 11 $

Municipal Police Departments

Potential Savings

See Below

See Below

Explanation

The bill decriminalizes possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana for individuals age 18 or older, and reduces the penalty to a violation punishable by a fine of $250. This results in workload and potentially budgetary savings to the Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ), the Public Defender Services Commission (PDS), the Judicial Department, municipal law enforcement agencies, and to some lesser potential extent, the Department of Correction (DOC).

Police

There were 8,118 marijuana arrests of individuals age 18 and older in Connecticut in 2007, which represents 5. 7% of total arrests statewide. Based on a sampling of arrest data compiled by the Department of Public Safety (DPS), 76% of those arrests were for possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana. Therefore, the cases affected by the bill account for an estimated 4. 4% of statewide arrests.

Assuming equivalency of resources allocated to each arrest regardless of type or severity of crime, these cases account for $3. 8 million and $26. 2 million of state and local law enforcement agency resources, respectively. Theoretically, these are resources that would no longer be required due to the elimination of having to process arrests for possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana by individuals age 18 or older. However, this does not account for the range of differences in workload and resources associated with the current range of crimes. As a result, savings in these amounts are calculated estimates, not budgetary achievable amounts, and may not be realized by state and local law enforcement budgets due to the fact that resources would likely be reallocated, rather than eliminated.

In addition, it is important to note that law enforcement is involved in a broader range of activities than arrests alone. Therefore, the estimates described here would be lower based on the actual proportional distribution of police resources.

Courts and Probation

The Superior Court handles approximately 2,700 cases each year under CGS 21a-279(c) exclusively which involve defendants age 18 years and older. It is estimated that possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana accounts for 76% of these cases; therefore, assuming the same methodology described above, the annual-resources cost to process them is estimated to be $970,000 (consisting of the salaries associated with two Public Defenders, four State's Attorneys, a portion of one Judge and support staff, expenses and fringe benefits).

In addition, approximately 1,090 probationers1 aged 18 years and older are under supervision in the community with possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana as their primary charge. Again, assuming the same methodology, the estimated amount of resources associated with their supervision in the community is $1. 0 million, including probation officer salaries, fringe benefits, expenses and contracted services.

To the extent that the resources identified above are not reallocated to serve existing caseloads, a potential budgetary savings could be obtained.

Prisons

The passage of the bill is anticipated to have a minimal, if any, impact on correctional costs. Currently there are 17 individuals incarcerated under CGS 21a-279(c) as their primary charge. Although a case history is not currently available on these individuals, they likely fall into the category of possession of amounts greater than half an ounce of marijuana.

Revenues from Fines

It is anticipated that making the violation punishable by a $250 fine only would greatly increase the frequency with which fines are imposed and result in a net revenue gain to the General Fund. Based on the total number of offenses that occur under current law, it is estimated that this reclassification could yield up to $900,000 in additional General Fund revenue each year.  

Background

This offense currently lies within CGS 21a-279(c) along with the other following offenses: (1) possession of 1 to 4 ounces of marijuana; and (2) possession of up to 4 ounces of either hallucinogenic or controlled (excluding narcotic) substances. This comingling of statutory offenses makes them indistinguishable upon review of criminal justice statistics (which are collected and tabulated by statute). Due to this data limitation, the fiscal estimates indicated above are based on an analysis of CGS 21a-279(c) in its entirety with certain estimates regarding the proportion of offenses involving possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana by individuals age 18 or older.

The Out Years

The annualized potential savings identified above would continue into the future subject to inflation; the annualized revenue from fines would remain constant into the future since fine amounts are set by statute.

Sources:

2008 Annual Report of the Chief Public Defender

 

Case Management Information System (CMIS) of the Court Support Services Division

 

Connecticut Department of Public Safety

 

Federal Bureau of Investigation

 

National Center for State Courts 2002 Minnesota Workload Assessment

 

Quarterly Disposition by Statute File from the Judicial Department's Criminal/Motor Vehicle System

1 Approximately 1/3 of these offenders are under an administrative form of probation, which does not require ongoing contact with probation officers or contract services (and therefore is much less costly).