Return to Part 1 of the Report         


SEPTEMBER 25, 1996

(Revised to June 4, 1997)

 This report is a preliminary staff overview of Connecticut’s drug policy and drug policy elsewhere. The ideas and conclusions in the report have not been reviewed by the Law Revision Commission and the report does not necessarily represent the views of the Commission.

 Connecticut Law Revision Commission
State Capitol
Room 509A
Hartford, CT 06106
Fax 860-240-0322

Table of Contents

Section I. Introduction

A. Study Focus
B. Outline of Report Section and Contents
C. Overview of Substance Abuse Issues
D. Drug Use Nationally
E. Drug Use in Connecticut

 Section II. Illicit Drugs: Summary of Use, Addiction and Treatment

A. Introduction
B. Marijuana
C. Opiates
D. Cocaine
E. Some Other Illegal Drugs

Section III. Drug Policy in Connecticut: Criminal Justice, Treatment, and Education Systems

A. Historical Context
B. Connecticut Criminal Justice System

1. Chronology of Criminal Law Drug Legislation
2. Current Criminal Laws
3. Components of the Criminal Justice System

a. Law Enforcement
b. Prosecutor
c. Court
d. Corrections

4. The Adult Criminal Case Process

a. Arrest
b. Case Disposition
c. Alternative Dispositions
d. Alternative Sentences
e. Sanctions
f. Drug Court

5. Criminal Justice Statistics

a. Arrests
b. Court Dispositions

C. Connecticut Treatment System

1. Historical Context of Treatment Programs
2. Chronology of Connecticut Treatment Legislation
3. Substance Abuse Treatment System

a. Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS)
b. Department of Children and Families (DCF)

4. DMHAS Treatment Statistics

a. Admissions to Treatment
b. Length of Treatment
c. Primary Substances

D. Education

 Section IV. Alternative Policies for the Regulation of Drugs

A. Introduction
B. Harm Reduction
C. Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs

1. Introduction
2. Does Criminal Enforcement of Drug Laws Benefit or Harm the Users and Potential Users That are Directly Targeted?
3. Does Criminal Law Enforcement of Drug Laws Benefit or Harm Members of the Public at Large?
4. Does Criminal Enforcement of the Drug Laws Benefit or Harm Society in General?
5. Assessment of Decriminalization Arguments

D. Modification of Marijuana Penalties in Other States
E. Medicinal Use of Marijuana
F. Recent Changes in Other States

1. Introduction
2. Arizona Initiative
3. Massachusetts, California, and Ohio

G. European and Australian Drug Policies
H. Medicalization of Drug Treatment

1. Introduction
2. Swiss Heroin Maintenance Program
3. Australia’s Proposed Pilot Study

I. Gateway Concerns
J. Other Social Policy Alternatives

 Section V. Areas of Further Analysis and Possible Recommendations


Table III-1. State Agencies’ Substance Abuse Responsibilities by Service Type

Table III-2. Connecticut Statutes Prohibiting Drug Sale

Table III-3. Connecticut Statutes Prohibiting Drug Possession

Table III-4. Alternative Sentencing Options for Adult Criminal Defendants

Table III-5. Statutory Penalties for Felony Crimes

Table III-6. Adult Criminal Court Case Dispositions for Drug Offenses

Table III-7. Number Admissions to Treatment Programs

Table III-8. DMHAS Client’s Primary Drug Abuse Problem: FY 95

Table IV-1. Syringe Availability to Drug Addicted Persons in Selected European Countries


 Figure II-1. Legislative History Timeline for Drug and Alcohol Controls

Figure III-2. Adult Criminal Case Process

 Figure III-3. Average Length of Stay in Treatment in Days

 Figure III-4. DMHAS Clients’ Primary Substance Abuse Problem: FY 95


A. Study Focus   Top

In April 1995, the Co-Chairs of the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly asked the Connecticut Law Revision Commission to conduct a study of Connecticut’s drug policy. The Commission was asked to conduct a study "broad enough to present a substantive report on the ramifications of our current drug policy and of alternative models" and to make "recommendations for appropriate modification of the laws." Specifically, the Commission was asked to study at least the following five areas:

1. The effectiveness of current criminal penalties for the illegal sale and possession of controlled substances;

2. The effect that alteration of criminal penalties for illegal sale and possession would have on the incidence and treatment of substance abuse, the incidence of other crime, the overcrowding of correctional facilities, and the availability of resources within the law enforcement and criminal justice systems;

 3. The effectiveness of current substance abuse treatment and education programs;

 4. The relationship between welfare and the illegal sale and possession of drugs; and

5. The outcomes of drug control programs in other states and countries including at least one study of the medicalization of the drug laws and the effect that these programs have had on crime, welfare, and substance abuse.

 The Judiciary Committee study request focuses on controlled drugs, those that are illegal for both adults and youth. Other drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, although regulated, are generally legally available for adults. Providing alcohol and tobacco to youth is generally illegal. The Connecticut Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee is presently conducting a study of the state’s efforts to control alcohol and drug substance abuse by persons under the age of 21 who have been charged with a criminal offense that is either directly or indirectly related to alcohol or drugs.

B. Outline of Report Section and Contents    Top

 This preliminary staff report on drug policy in Connecticut is divided into five sections. Section I is an overview of substance abuse issues; Section II describes the most prevalent illicit drugs, how they are used, the nature of their addiction, and the available modes of treatment; Section III includes the legislative history of and the current drug policy in Connecticut; the state’s criminal justice and treatment systems for dealing with substance abuse; and a statistical overview of those state systems; Section IV discusses alternatives to the current system, in particular analyzing the arguments of harm reduction advocates for alternative social policies that rely on medical treatment and address social causes and that de-emphasize reliance on the criminal justice system; and Section V summarizes areas of further study and recommendations.

 In preparing this preliminary report, Commission staff reviewed national and state literature, research, and statistics relating to the issues of drug policy. The staff also interviewed individuals in government and private bodies involved with criminal justice, drug treatment, and drug policy and collected preliminary data on adult criminal justice and treatment services.

C. Overview of Substance Abuse Issues     Top

 How should society regulate illicit drugs? What are the appropriate roles and levels of government law enforcement, treatment, and education and prevention? Those questions are the focus of this report.

 Illicit drug use has been a major public health and safety concern for Connecticut and the United States for, at least, the past forty years. Public concern over drug abuse has been heightened by the high profile coverage of the drug related deaths of such celebrities and athletes as John Belushi, River Phoenix, and Lenny Bias.

 That public concern has been further exacerbated by claims that drug use is linked to crime as well as to health issues. Drug use and crime have been linked on three levels: systemic; economic; and pharmacological. Systemic crime is crime that is committed as part of the regular means of doing business in the illicit drug industry. Because American society has made it illegal to manufacture, distribute, and sell drugs outside of the authorized medical and pharmaceutical system, those who engage in these activities engage in an illegal enterprise. Because those activities are illegal, society’s normal methods of addressing disputes over business arrangements, through the courts, government regulation, and insurance, are not available. Since illicit drugs are both expensive and in great demand, sellers sometimes resort to violence to protect their profitable business and to settle disputes. Economic crime occurs because persons addicted to drugs need money to support their use. A percentage of these addicts resort to criminal activity such as robbery, shoplifting, burglary, prostitution, and sale of drugs to obtain that money. Finally, some crime occurs due to the pharmacology of certain drugs that act on the central nervous system so as to decrease inhibitions or to increase violent or aggressive behavior in some users. Use of cocaine, but most especially use of alcohol, is a factor in a number of violent crimes.

 During this period, society has treated drug use both as an act deserving punishment and as a condition requiring treatment. The nation’s enforcement of drug laws has resulted in a rate of incarceration that is the highest per capita in the world. This rate impacts disproportionately on minorities. As many as one in three black males between 20 and 29 years of age are under the supervision of the criminal justice system, many for drug related offenses, and 80% of the state prison population incarcerated for drug offenses are blacks and Hispanics.

 Both the federal government and the states have authority to regulate in the field of drugs. Congress regulates drugs under its commerce clause powers, the states regulate under their police power. Federal and state drug regulation fall into two general categories: (1) possession or use law and (2) manufacturing/distribution offenses. All state and federal laws prohibit the possession and the manufacturing/distribution of controlled substances. In addition, the federal government and 49 states prohibit the sale and trafficking of drug paraphernalia. Furthermore, CGS section 21a-282 prohibits prosecution under Connecticut law (CGS section 21a-242 through 21a-282) of a person who has been acquitted or convicted under federal law for the same offenses.

 Federal regulation of controlled substances is found in the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. States may regulate in the field so long as its laws do not conflict with the provisions in this act. Congress specifically addressed the issue of concurrent state and federal regulation in an anti-preemption provision in the act.

 This study is primarily concerned with the regulation of drug use and drug related policies of the state of Connecticut. Connecticut policies, the ramifications of those policies, and possible alternative policies are reviewed with the goal of improving the effectiveness of those policies in the public interest. It is important to keep in mind, however, that Connecticut shares jurisdiction over these issues with the federal government and that dual sovereignty has implications and potential limitations for what state policies may be viable.

D. Drug Use Nationally    Top

 Nationally, use of illicit drugs declined significantly during the 1980's. About 6% of all persons 12 and over used illicit drugs in 1995, compared with 14% in 1979. This represents a 58% reduction in use of illegal drugs during this period. Use of any illicit drug (such as heroin and cocaine) other than marijuana declined from 6% in 1985 to about 2.5% in 1992 and use has remained essentially steady. Marijuana use declined from 13% in 1979 to 4.7% in 1992 and, except as noted below, use has also remained essentially steady. One drug policy researcher suggests that 20% of the users account for 80% of the volume of illicit drugs consumed.

 In the 12-17 age group, marijuana use shows recent change. The use of marijuana by these youths was 14% in 1979, declined to 3.4% in 1992, and increased to 6% in 1994 and 8% in 1995.

 More white Americans, by a margin of five to one, use illicit drugs than do black Americans - 9,583,000 vs. 1,187,000. Approximately 1,000,000 Hispanic Americans use drugs. Notwithstanding the fact that whites account for 75% of illicit drug use, the arrest rate among whites for drug offenses is only one fifth the rate among blacks, and whites account for only 18% of state prison inmates incarcerated for drug offenses. Eighty percent of the state prison population incarcerated for drug offenses are made up of blacks and Hispanics.

 Even with the general decline in drug use, a significant number of Americans age twelve and older - nearly 13 million - uses illicit drugs in a given month. Nearly 10 million of those illicit drug users are using marijuana. Over one-third of all Americans - over 72 million - report that they have used illegal drugs at some time during their lifetime.

 The estimated cost in human lives of drug abuse in a given year is significant, about 5,000 overdose deaths in a given year. However, as a matter of perspective, use of our primary legal drugs, alcohol and nicotine, wreaks a greater human toll. It is estimated that approximately 474,000 deaths per year can be attributed to smoking tobacco and approximately 100,000 deaths per year - including traffic fatalities and disease - are caused by abuse of alcohol.

 Even though 5.5 million Americans need drug treatment, treatment is available to only 20% of those who need it. This lack of availability of treatment persists even in the face of consistent research showing the value of treatment. Comparable data for Connecticut is not yet available but is a focus of this study.

 During this period of general decline in drug use, the cost to enforce the nation’s drug laws has grown from approximately $100 million in 1973 to $14 billion today. The nation’s annual cost of illegal drug abuse has been estimated at $167 billion, with the federal government spending $11 billion for annual health care and disability costs associated with drug abuse.

 Most drug users are employed. Two-thirds to three-quarters of those who use illicit drugs at least once a month are employed and eighty percent of those are employed full time.

 Some chronic drug users receive public assistance benefits. They suffer a disability much like others who receive public assistance because of their chronic, long-term disabilities such mental or emotional illness, physical disabilities, or alcoholism. A 1994 survey by the Connecticut Department of Social Services found that 7% of those receiving general assistance reported evidence of illegal drug abuse, 11% with alcohol abuse and 5% with both alcohol and illegal drug use. The then-Connecticut Department of Public Health and Addiction Services reported that, in FY 1994, of their treatment clients whose primary substance abuse problem was illegal drugs, 27% received welfare.

 Nationwide, the majority of drug users do not receive aid for families with dependent children (AFDC), Medicaid, or food stamp benefits. Less than 10% of people over 14 years of age who used drugs in the previous month lived in households that received those benefits. Furthermore, the great majority of the recipients of these benefits are not drug users. The rate of self-reported past-month drug use among persons receiving AFDC was 10.5%; for those receiving food stamps the rate was 10%; and for Medicaid recipients, the rate was 9.4%.

E. Drug Use in Connecticut     Top

 In Connecticut, the use of illicit drugs and efforts to control sale and use has received significant attention from, and considerable resources of, state and local government. The Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Substance Abuse estimated that, in 1995, 65,000 Connecticut residents abused illegal drugs, a number that does not include those who merely "use" illegal drugs. An extrapolation, however, of the figures of the National Household Survey (see footnote 4) indicates that 168,500 Connecticut residents may, in fact, use illegal drugs each month, 129,000 of whom are using marijuana.

The state of Connecticut, as do all states, uses a multi-pronged approach to address illegal drugs: criminal sanctions are imposed for drug possession and sale; treatment programs are provided for the drug addict; and education, prevention, and intervention programs have been developed to prevent or interrupt ongoing use.

Connecticut places primary reliance for addressing illegal drug use on criminal law enforcement and devotes significant law enforcement and criminal justice resources to suppress drug use, possession, and trafficking. That reliance has been increasing. Nearly 43,000 criminal cases involving drug offenses were disposed of in Connecticut adult criminal courts in the year ending June 30, 1995, with over 9000 convictions. Nearly 9000 marijuana drug offense cases were disposed for the misdemeanor charge of possessing less than 4 ounces of marijuana; convictions were obtained in 1700 of those cases. As of December 1, 1995, 4673 persons were incarcerated in Connecticut for a violation of drug laws as their primary offense, an increase of 29% in 14 months. Thirty-one percent of Connecticut prison beds are devoted to those incarcerated for drug offenses, an increase of 24% in the same 14 months.

Significant resources are also directed to treatment. To address the treatment needs of those who abuse illegal drugs, admissions to Connecticut detoxification and treatment programs and aftercare services in 1994-95 totaled 30,000. Admissions are counted separately and an individual can be admitted more than one time during a reporting period. Seventy-five percent of the programs were funded or operated by the state of Connecticut. In addition, the Connecticut Department of Correction provided both alcohol and drug treatment services to approximately 2400 of those incarcerated.

Connecticut’s systems of law enforcement, delivery of treatment, and for education, prevention, and intervention are discussed in more detail in section III.


A. Introduction25    Top

Some people use illegal drugs to enjoy the pleasurable experience that these drugs can provide. In some cases, a "recreational" drug user becomes addicted to the drug. However, the rate of addiction is difficult to determine and estimates are inherently unreliable. For example, Don Des Jarlais of New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center’s Chemical Dependancy Institute estimates that 10% to 30% of those who try heroin become addicted to it.26 Estimates for cocaine dependence range from 2% to 20% for those who inhale and higher for those who smoke crack cocaine. 27

Drugs are chemicals that affect physiological function; some affect specific body parts, including the brain, and other drugs affect more than one part of the body simultaneously. A psychoactive drug (both legal and illegal) affects the brain, altering mood, thought process, or behavior. Many drugs that are legal for treatment or prevention of disease are illegal for recreational use or for self-medicinal use not authorized by the legitimate medical community.

Marijuana, heroin, and cocaine are among the most used illegal drugs. Others include methamphetamine and various hallucinogens. However, the range of substances that may be abused for their physiological effect is very large and includes such substances as gasoline, glue, and nitrous oxide as well as laboratory created "designer drugs." All of these drugs can be, and sometimes are, used in combination with other drugs, including alcohol. This section contains a brief description of the more prevalent illegal drugs, how they are used, legal medical use, the effect of use, addiction, dangers of the drug, and types of treatment for addiction. These drugs differ in many ways and those differences can be important in determining appropriate policy.

B. Marijuana    Top

Description and effect of use

Marijuana, the leaf of hemp or cannabis plants, is the most-used illegal drug in America.28 It is most commonly used by smoking cigarettes made from ground marijuana. It is also smoked in rolled cigar paper and in pipes. Common names for marijuana include grass, hash, jays, weed, pot and joints. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the biologically active material in the plant. Marijuana intoxication can create euphoria, "a relaxed, calm, drowsy, dreamlike state, with a feeling of disconnection from the ordinary world"29 and has some detrimental effects on motor control, spatial perception, and short-term memory. The effects may last 2-6 hours. Heavy marijuana use may also cause psychological side effects such as anxiety and panic attacks.

Connecticut permits physicians to prescribe marijuana for treatment of glaucoma and the side effects of chemotherapy. Marijuana is also useful to treat the symptoms of AIDS, muscle spasms, and multiple sclerosis but may not be prescribed for that purpose under current Connecticut law.

Long-term use

A number of regular marijuana users are heavy users, but the number or percentage of heavy users is unknown. Whether regular, long-term use has serious long-term consequences is a matter of controversy. In the absence of persuasive studies demonstrating that past heavy marijuana use is a risk factor for other undesirable physical conditions, Kleiman speculates that the major cost of such heavy use may be the "lost earning, learning, personal, and career development opportunities represented by the months of very heavy use."30 Discontinuance after chronic, heavy use can cause some mild withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, and loss of appetite and sleep. Inhaling marijuana smoke has potential long-term detrimental effects on the lungs.

Treatment for

Treatment for problem marijuana use has received little attention, perhaps because heavy users do not often demand help or make general nuisances of themselves. Drug education, self regulation of use, and group therapy are the primary treatment modes.

C. Opiates    Top

Description and effect of use

Heroin, the most common opiate, is obtained from the opium poppy plant. Other common opiate drugs are opium, morphine, and codeine. Although heroin can be smoked and inhaled, it is most often used by injecting it into a vein (intravenously). Heroin depresses the central nervous system, and when used intravenously, gives the user a highly euphoric intoxication -- an extremely pleasurable, brief "rush." This initial reaction is followed by a dreamlike state, with an emotional disconnection from reality, often accompanied by drowsiness and lethargy. By supplanting the body’s natural opiates, heroin also disrupts the body’s normal response to environmental stimulants, dulling responses to joys and pains.31

 Opiates such as morphine and codeine are strong pain-relieving medications, commonly used medically in the United States. Medical use of heroin for pain relief is prohibited in the United States, but permitted in some other countries.


 Heavy users of heroin build up a tolerance to it, i.e., the brain adapts to the presence of heroin and the user becomes dependent on it. Repeated high doses of heroin may not produce a psychotropic effect. Dependence on heroin cannot be observed when the drug is administered, but is observed when use of heroin is reduced or terminated. At that point, a syndrome called withdrawal becomes apparent. Withdrawal from heroin, which can occur 4-8 hours after the last dose of heroin, is extremely unpleasant, marked by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sweating, chills, and fever. Thus, as the effect of heroin wears off, an addict may use more heroin, not for its pleasurable qualities, but to avoid the discomfort of withdrawal. Persons addicted to heroin may use it three to four times daily and, because of the fear of the pain of withdrawal, may spend much of their time focused on obtaining an adequate supply of the drug.

 Death from overdose is a potential hazard of heroin, particularly in street use where the drug efficacy is unknown and where it may be adulterated with other toxic substances. Unlike drugs such as cocaine or alcohol, chronic heavy use of heroin is not, in itself, directly life threatening. Chronic heavy users may, however, suffer poverty because of their use (reduced employment capabilities and cost of the drug) and thus be more susceptible to the diseases associated with poverty. Although extremely uncomfortable, withdrawal is not life threatening. Because heroin is commonly administered by needles that are shared with other users, a needle-sharing user is at a high risk of contracting hepatitis and AIDS.

 Treatment for

 Heroin addiction can be effectively treated through methadone maintenance which is the most successful treatment program in use for addiction to any drug. Successful methadone maintenance treatment results in reduced or eliminated use of heroin, reduced criminal behavior and arrests, improved social functioning and health (including lower risk for hepatitis and AIDS), and long-term retention in treatment. Methadone, a synthetic drug related to heroin, is dispensed orally to an addict generally once a day. An addict is given enough methadone to ward off heroin withdrawal symptoms, but not enough to induce narcotic effects. Thus, persons treated with methadone are able to hold jobs and operate automobiles. Like treatment for other chronic disorders such a diabetes, schizophrenia, and arthritis, long-term administration of methadone medication to heroin addicts may be required to realize the continued benefits of methadone treatment.

Heroin use is also treated by abstinence programs such group therapy, residential therapeutic communities, and individual self help. Detoxication programs (generally 10-21 day outpatient programs) attempt to rid the person’s body of heroin by stopping its use. Other medications can relieve the most serious effects of withdrawal during detoxication.

D. Cocaine    Top

Description and effect of use

Cocaine is obtained from the leaf of the coca plant. Two forms of cocaine are in general use: hydrochloride salt cocaine (powder) that is inhaled in the nose or injected in a vein and smokable cocaine (free base and crack). Common names for cocaine include coke, free base, snow, and rocks.

Cocaine is a temporary, powerful stimulant to the central nervous system, causing acceleration of perception and thought, giving a feeling of increased power and intense pleasure, and releasing social inhibition. Method of use, as well as dose level, governs the intensity of the drug’s impact. Injection gives a powerful, rapid jolt to the brain, with peak effects in about five minutes. Inhaling (snorting) takes about twenty minutes for peak effects. Within minutes the pleasurable effects of cocaine diminish, encouraging the user to readminister the drug, possibly with increased drug concentration.

Crack cocaine, which became an increasingly popular method of cocaine use in the 1980s, gives an immediate and intense drug experience, similar to that of injecting. The effect of smoking crack is more immediate and dramatic than is inhaling or swallowing. Crack is available in individual dosage units and is less expensive than powder cocaine. Smoking crack provides inexperienced persons and others who are reluctant to inject into a vein a "socially acceptable" alternative.

Cocaine is used medically as local anesthesia for eyes, nasal passages, mouth, and throat. Other use is illegal.


To maintain the high, some users (the percentage is indeterminate) go on "binges," using repeated and larger doses during a period of up to twenty-four hours. Large doses during binges can cause stroke, irregular heartbeat, heart stoppage, and psychotic behavior. Combining alcohol with cocaine increases the toxic threat to the heart and circulation. Cocaine use can prevent sleep, reduce appetite, and cause neglect of personal hygiene and health.

The end of a cocaine-use binge can be followed by what is known as a "crash" -- an extremely unpleasant period, especially when compared to the previous period of stimulation. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are primarily behavioral, characterized by depression, anxiety, agitation, and paranoia. The crash can be accompanied by powerful craving for more cocaine. Heroin and more cocaine can moderate the effects of the crash. Unlike heroin addiction, in which the user may use consistent doses of heroin daily, chronic heavy cocaine use is often characterized by short periods of binges followed by days of nonuse.

Because the effects of crack are more intense and shorter than the effects of powder cocaine, a user may have a particularly powerful urge for repeated use. Although smoking crack does not invariably lead to compulsive use, it is more common among crack smokers than among inhalers of cocaine powder. The crash from a crack smoking binge can be much more intense than the crash from a snorting binge.

Treatment for

Treatment for cocaine use (aside from lifesaving measures in hospital emergency rooms) is through abstinence in group therapy, residential communities, and individual self help. Antidepressant medication may be used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms in addicts who are trying to discontinue use of cocaine. To date, no legal drug therapy (as, for example, methadone for heroin) is available to treat cocaine addiction.

E. Some Other Illegal Drugs    Top


Amphetamines are synthetic compounds known by a variety of names such as speed, bennies, dexies, pep pills, uppers, crank, and ice. Before being prohibited, amphetamines could be found in diet pills and over-the-counter cold medicines. Legitimate medical use of amphetamines is now limited to treating ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and ODD (oppositional deficient disorder). Amphetamines can be inhaled, injected, or made into pills. One form, methamphetamine (ice) can be smoked. Amphetamines, like cocaine, are stimulants with similar, but longer-lasting, effects. Heavy, chronic use of amphetamines causes psychotic behavior and has other effects similar to that of cocaine. Treatment for amphetamine use is similar to that for cocaine use.


Hallucinogens include drugs such as mescaline, which is obtained from a cactus plant, and synthetic compounds such as LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), and PCP (angel dust). Generally, they are ingested orally and produce a variety of mind-altering reactions. Each may cause different degrees of dependence and withdrawal symptoms.


Inhalants include chemicals such as glue, gasoline, paint thinner, hair spray, ether, and nitrous oxide (laughing gas). They can produce light headedness and some disorientation. The solvents can have long-term adverse neurological and mental impacts.


A. Historical Context     Top

Alcohol, tobacco, opium, cannabis, and coca have been consumed for thousands of years. Each has been used for medicinal, ritual, and recreational purposes; has been perceived as good and bad for both the individual and society; and has been subjected to government controls, sanctions, taxation, zoning, and regulatory measures. Each has been available in both regulated and unregulated markets.

During the late 19th century, many states banned the sale of alcohol while allowing for the legal sale of opiates, cocaine, and cannabis (primarily marijuana and hashish), which were commonly purchased by all social classes by mail order and from pharmacies and other retail outlets for medicinal purposes. Physicians often prescribed opiates such as morphine which were among the few known effective drugs to treat symptoms of the chronically ill. As the problem of addiction became more apparent and as other nonaddictive drugs such as aspirin became available, physician-directed medication and self medication with morphine and other opiates declined. During the first quarter of the 20th century, the federal government began to criminalize nonmedical opiate and coca use and outlawed, as a drug treatment, long-term medical maintenance of an addict on a prescribed supply of a drug. The first major piece of drug legislation -- the 1906 Federal Pure Food and Drug Act -- required manufacturers to disclose whether their products contained any drugs or alcohol. In 1914, The Harrison Narcotic Act was adopted placing a federal ban on nonmedicinal use of opiates and cocaine. Marijuana prohibitions were established in the 1930s, and alcohol prohibition was repealed in 1933.

The first omnibus federal drug legislation was enacted in 1964. Called the "Drug Abuse Control Amendments," it focused on the distribution and record keeping requirements of prescription drugs such as depressants and stimulants. Congress has enacted drug legislation almost every year since, sometimes emphasizing enforcement and sometimes rehabilitation. Most governments, including the United States, signed the international drug prohibition conventions of 1961, 1971, and 1988.

B. Connecticut Criminal Justice System Top

Much legislation over the past couple of decades has influenced the character of Connecticut’s current laws regarding drugs. The time line in Figure II-1 highlights important legislative changes surrounding the issue of drug use and abuse. The legislative changes are examined chronologically within the following five categories: drugs; alcohol; treatment; juveniles; and education.

The state effort to address the use of illegal drugs involves many state agencies and a myriad of state-funded, community-based programs. Initiatives are funded from several sources and cover criminal justice, treatment, prevention, and intervention activities.

 Connecticut focuses its resources for controlling the use of illegal drugs and substances in the criminal justice and treatment systems. Criminal justice activities cover detection, arrest, prosecution, and punishment. The services are provided by several state and local agencies, such as municipal and state police, juvenile and criminal courts, juvenile prosecutors and state’s attorneys, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Department of Correction (DOC), and state-funded private community programs. The criminal justice system also has sole jurisdiction over delinquency and criminal matters. Children and young people who are arrested for a criminal offense are adjudicated in either the juvenile or adult courts.

 The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) is the state’s lead agency in treating individuals 18 years and older who have alcohol and drug abuse problems and the Department of Children and Families provides substance abuse treatment services to children under the age of 18. Additionally, the Departments of Public Health, Social Services, and Veterans’ Affairs and the criminal and juvenile justice systems also provide treatment services within their organizations.

 The types of services provided are broadly categorized as treatment, intervention, prevention and education, social support, and criminal justice. As shown in Table III-1, 17 state agencies and the Judicial Department have active roles in administering or funding these services. It should be noted that this table is not all inclusive; other agencies may also have indirect or minor roles in these areas.

 Treatment services are offered in community-based settings and at several state facilities, operated or funded through the Departments of Children and Families, Correction, and Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS).

Top 1. Chronology of criminal law drug legislation. As far back as 1882, Connecticut enacted a law regulating the sale of certain drugs and narcotics. The law specified legal sellers to be physicians, pharmacists, and veterinarians, and also made it illegal to taint or dilute any substance without notice to the buyer. Persons violating this law were subject to a fine of $25 to $50.

 In 1918, four years after the federal ban on narcotics, Connecticut enacted its first comprehensive legislation on narcotic drugs that prohibited the sale and possession of cocaine, opium, morphine, heroin, codeine, and other derivatives. Only licensed physicians, dentists, and veterinarians were allowed to prescribe the drugs, but there were restrictions. A prescription could be issued only once and could not be given to patients known to be "habitual user(s) . . . except when such drug is obviously needed for therapeutic purposes." The statutory penalties for illegal sale of narcotic drugs was a $1,000 fine or one year imprisonment or both while illegal possession, by anyone other than a licensed medical professional, was subject to a $100 fine or 60 days imprisonment or both. Under this law, however, small amounts of opium, morphine, heroin, codeine, and cocaine were still legal in over-the-counter medicines.

Table III-1. State Agencies’ Substance Abuse Responsibilities by Service Type







Commission of Deaf & Hearing Impaired

Department of Children & Families

Department of Correction  


Department of Education    

Department of Higher Education    

Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services

Department of Public Health

Department of Public Safety    


Department of Social Services- Aging  

Department of Social Services- Human Resources

Department of Social Services

Department of Transportation  

Department of Veteran Affairs

Division of Criminal Justice State’s Attorney        

Judicial Department- Adult Probation



Judicial Department- Alternative Sanctions


Judicial Department- Bail Commission        

Judicial Department- Family Division        

Office of Policy & Management    


Public Defender Services Commission        

Department of Consumer Protection    


Source of Data: DMHAS State Agency Council on Substance Abuse report FY 94-95.

Again following national prohibitions on drugs, a 1939 revision of the state’s drug laws included cannabis (marijuana and hashish) as an illegal substance. In 1949, Connecticut enacted the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act. The emphasis of this bill was similar to past legislation. Narcotic drugs, such as morphine, codeine, heroin, cocaine, and opium, were illegal to possess unless prescribed by a licensed physician, pharmacist, dentist, or veterinarian, and small amounts of these drugs remained legal. The penalties for a violation of the law were, however, increased to a $2,000 fine and up to five years’ imprisonment or both.

The next major piece of drug legislation was passed in 1967 and was the precursor to the state’s current drug laws. This law prohibited the sale and possession of drugs and established graduated sanctions for first and second offenses. Drug abuse and drug dependency were defined. A drug advisory council was created to study the drug laws, drug trafficking, and treatment of substance abuse. Finally, the legislature took a two-pronged approach to drug addiction by mandating criminal sanction and treatment. A felony criminal prosecution or sentence for a drug conviction could be suspended if the offender was found to be drug-dependent, in which case a period of probation was imposed and treatment services were provided by the Department of Mental Health.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the legislature continued to increase the criminal penalties for the sale and possession based on the types and amounts of illegal drugs. Stiff criminal penalties for the sale of drugs by a non-drug-dependent offender were established so that the penalty for such an offense depended on the defendant’s status as an addict or not an addict. Previously, the law had not so distinguished between drug dependent non-drug dependent.

In 1980, the use, possession with intent to use, or delivery of drug paraphernalia knowing that it will be used with controlled drugs was categorized as a class C misdemeanor punishable by one to 10 years imprisonment. Previously, possession of drug paraphernalia was only subject to a maximum fine of $100.

In 1987, major drug-oriented legislation addressing both criminal sanctions and treatment was enacted. The new law appropriated funds for a variety of new and existing drug enforcement and treatment programs; increased penalties for using children to sell drugs; established mandatory minimum sentences for sale of crack by non-drug-dependent persons, and expanded the state’s authority to seize property in criminal drug cases. A boot-camp program for convicted 16-to-21 year-old males as an alternative to incarceration was authorized, but never established, and a treatment facility for female offenders was established. The law further authorized the court to order a drug-dependent defendant to submit to random testing and participate in treatment as a condition of bail. Finally, mandatory prison terms were increased for the sale or possession of drugs or paraphernalia on or near school grounds.

Top2. Current criminal laws. Current Connecticut criminal drug laws, based largely on the 1989 revisions, are designed to suppress use of illegal drugs by punishing those who possess and sell drugs and by discouraging, with the threat of criminal punishment, others from possessing and selling drugs.

Connecticut law makes it illegal for persons of any age to possess, sell, distribute, manufacture, or transport controlled substances and narcotic or hallucinogenic drugs, the most common of which are heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. The use of a controlled drug (e.g., cocaine, crack, heroin, LSD, marijuana) or substance is not expressly prohibited. Prosecutions are brought for the sale of the substance or the possession of the substance rather than for being under the influence of the substance. Sanctions or penalties imposed for violation of the drug laws include incarceration, fines, alternatives to incarceration, and mandatory treatment programs.

The drug laws are contained in Chapter 420b of Title 21a of the Connecticut General Statutes, relating to consumer protection, and are broadly based on the federal Controlled Substances Act (21 USC 801 et seq.). Although the laws specify criminal sanctions, such as imprisonment and fines, they are not codified in Title 53a, the Connecticut penal code.

Drug abuse is defined by law as the use of controlled substances solely for their stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect and not as therapy prescribed for medical treatment. Drug dependency is statutorily defined as "a state of physical or psychic dependence, or both, upon a controlled substance" through repeated periodic or continuous use. A person cannot be considered drug dependent as a result of prescribed medical treatment. An intoxicated person is one whose mental or physical functioning is substantially impaired as a result of the use a drug. A person incapacitated by drugs has such impaired judgment that he or she cannot make rational decisions regarding the need for treatment.

Controlled drugs are statutorily defined as those: (1) containing any quantity of a substance listed in the federal Controlled Substance Act; (2) designated as a depressant or stimulant drug pursuant to federal food and drug laws; or (3) designated by the state Commissioner of Consumer Protection as having a stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect and a tendency to promote abuse or dependency. The drugs are statutorily classified as amphetamine, barbiturate, cocaine, cannabis, hallucinogenic, morphine, or stimulant and depressant types. Narcotic substances include morphine, opium, opiates, cocaine, coca and salts, and derivatives having similar physiological effects and potential for abuse. Possession and sale of controlled drugs are illegal when those activities occur outside of the legitimate medical and pharmaceutical use and distribution system. Controlled substances may be prescribed by physicians for any legitimate medical use, except to maintain an addict in treatment. Physicians may prescribe use of the marijuana plant for treatment of chemotherapy and glaucoma. However, prescriptions for medical use of marijuana are not written because pharmacies have no legal access to the plant. The statutes specifically exclude alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine as controlled drugs.

Statutory penalties for drug offenses are based on four factors: (1) type of drug; (2) amount of drug; (3) offender’s prior criminal history regarding drug offenses; and (4) whether offender is drug dependent. Table III-2 lists the laws prohibiting the sale of drugs, the penalties, and any exceptions to the penalties, and Table III-3 describes the offense for possession of drugs. As shown, the most serious offense is the sale of heroin, cocaine, or methadone that directly causes a person’s death. The offense is punishable by a sentence of death or by life imprisonment without the possibility of release.

The penalties for the sale of drugs by a non-drug dependent person are more stringent and impose mandatory minimum terms of incarceration. The mandatory minimums may be reduced or waived only for offenders under the age of 18 years or if medical treatment is imposed. In addition, the statutes require a mandatory prison sentence for any drug offense committed within 1,500 feet of an elementary or secondary school, day care center, or public housing project.

As shown in the tables, only three drug offenses have been classified based on the system used in the penal code, which categorizes crimes as A, B, C, or D felonies or as misdemeanors. An A felony is the most serious for sentencing purposes. The misrepresentation of a substance as an illegal drug is a class D felony punishable by a prison term not less than one year nor more than five years; the sale of drug paraphernalia is a class A misdemeanor punishable by jail term not to exceed one year; and the possession or use of drug paraphernalia is a class C misdemeanor punishable by a jail term not to exceed three months. All other drug offenses are unclassified in statute and have specific sentencing guidelines.

Connecticut law also places civil disabilities on drug users. For example, elders who currently use illegal drugs are ineligible for government-supported senior housing33. Other law places limits on the cash assistance to general assistance recipients who have substance abuse problems.34

Top3. Components of the Criminal Justice System. In Connecticut, the criminal drug laws are enforced through the criminal justice system. That system is represented by four components: law enforcement; prosecutors; courts; and corrections. Each component is a distinct operational jurisdiction with its own organization, resources, sources of authority, lines of communication, and accountability. The components are, however, linked in such a way that contact with one part of the system typically leads to contact with other components. The responsibilities and workload of each department are influenced by, and may be dependent on, the types and number of cases handled by agencies within the system.

Topa. Law enforcement. State and municipal police departments are responsible for the prevention and detection of crime and apprehension of offenders. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), a federal law enforcement unit investigating the illegal drug trade, also provides technical and investigative assistance to state and local police. The Division of State Police, within the Department of Public Safety, has statewide law enforcement jurisdiction. Within the state police special investigations bureau are the Statewide Narcotics Task Force and the Gang Unit, both of which have a prominent role in the area of substance abuse. The Department of Consumer Protection also has law enforcement authority over alleged drugs and illegal possession of drugs.

Table III-2. Connecticut Statutes Prohibiting Drug Sale      

C.G.S. cite

Offense Description

Statutory Penalties

Statutory Exceptions

Pre-Trial Diversion





53a-54b(6) Sale of heroin, cocaine, or methadone directly causing the user’s death: capital felony Life imprisonment without possibility of early release or death sentence of jury finds that aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors (53a-46a)   Yes No No
21a-278(a) Sale by a nonaddict of at least 1 oz. of heroin, cocaine, or methadone; 5 mg. of LSD; or .5 g. of crack Mandatory minimum 5- to 20-year prison term, possible maximum term of life imprisonment Youth or mental impairment: sentence can be reduced below mandatory minimum Yes No No
21a-278(b) Sale by a nonaddict of at least 1kg. of marijuana, or any amount of narcotics, amphetamines, or other hallucinogens Minimum 5-year prison term up to a 20-year maximum.

Subsequent offenses: mandatory minimum 10-year prison term up to a 25-year maximum

Youth or mental impairment: sentence can be reduced below mandatory minimum Yes






21a-278a(b) Sale of illegal drug by nonaddict within 1,500 feet of an elementary or secondary school, a licensed day care center, or public housing project Mandatory 3-year prison term running consecutively to prison term imposed for violating other drug sale law   Yes No No
21a-277(b) Sale of any other illegal drug First offense: up to 7-year prison term, up to a $25,000 fine, or both

Subsequent offenses: up to 15-year prison term, up to a $100,000 fine, or both

Alternative sentence: up to 3-year indeterminate prison term with conditional release by correction commissioner 21a-277(d)







21a-268 Misrepresentation of substance as an illegal drug Up to 5-year prison term, up to a $5,000 fine, or both        
*AR = accelerated rehabilitation

CSLP = community service labor program

Source of Data: Connecticut General Statutes and OLR report 95-R-1332

Table III-3. Connecticut Statutes Prohibiting Drug Possession      


Offense Description

Statutory Penalties


Pre-Trial Diversion




21a-279(a) Illegal possession of narcotics (i.e., heroin, cocaine, crack) First offense: up to 7-year prison term, up to a $50,000 fine, or both

Second offense: up to 15-year prison term, up to a $100,000 fine, or both

Subsequent offenses: up to 25- year prison term, up to a $250,000 fine, or both

Alternative sentence: up to 3-year indeterminate prison term with conditional release by correction commissioner 21a-279(e)










21a-279(b) Illegal possession of dangerous hallucinogens or at least 4 oz. of marijuana First offense: up to 5-year prison term, up to a $2,000 fine, or both

Subsequent offenses: up to 10-year prison term, up to a $5,000 fine, or both

Alternative sentence: up to 3-year indeterminate prison term with conditional release by correction commissioner 21a-279(e)







21a-279( c) Illegal possession of any other drug or less than 4 oz. of marijuana First offense: up to 1-year prison term, up to a $1,000 fine, or both

Subsequent offenses: up to 5-year prison term, up to a $3,000 fine, or both

Alternative sentence: up to 3-year indeterminate prison term with conditional release by correction commissioner 21a-279(e)

  Yes Yes Yes
21a-279(d) Possession of illegal drugs by a nonstudent within 1,500 feet of an elementary or secondary school or a licensed day care center Mandatory 2-year prison sentence running consecutively to prison term imposed for violating other drug possession laws   Yes Yes Yes
21a-267(a) Possession or use of drug paraphernalia Up to 3 month jail term, up to $500 fine, or both        
21a-267(b) Deliver or possess or manufacture with intent to deliver drug paraphernalia Up to 1-year jail term, up to a $2,000 fine, or both        
21a-267( c) Possession, use, or delivery of drug paraphernalia within 1,500 feet of an elementary or secondary school by a nonstudent Additional 1-year mandatory minimum sentence        
* AR = accelerated rehabilitation

CSLP = community service labor program

Source of Data: Connecticut General Statutes and OLR report 95-R-1332


Also operating in the state are 91 municipal police departments, two municipalities with a constabulary unit, and police departments serving state university campuses, state and local agencies, and several private businesses. Local police have jurisdiction limited to the town in which they serve except under specific circumstances, such as in pursuit of a felon, when it is expanded statewide.

Topb. Prosecutor. The Division of Criminal Justice is responsible for all state criminal prosecutorial functions. The division is comprised of the chief state’s attorney, 12 state’s attorneys, and 14 juvenile prosecutors. One juvenile prosecutor functions as an administrator at the division’s central office. The state’s attorney and juvenile prosecutor administer prosecutorial responsibilities for a specified judicial region.

 Recent legislation reorganizing the juvenile justice system transferred juvenile advocates (now called juvenile prosecutors) from the Judicial Department to the Division of Criminal Justice (PA 95-225). Juvenile prosecutors have the same authority as the state’s attorneys in charging and prosecuting young people under the age of 16. The juvenile and adult prosecutors are autonomous but coordinate the work of their respective offices.

Topc. Court. The state’s judicial system is comprised of the Supreme Court, Appellate Court, Superior Court, and Probate Court. Except for the Probate Court, all courts are state-funded and judges are nominated by the governor and appointed by the General Assembly to eight-year terms. The chief justice is the head of the Judicial Department responsible for the administrative operations of criminal court and also presides over the Supreme Court. The chief court administrator, appointed by the chief justice, is responsible for assignments of judges and daily operations of the court.

 The Superior Court is the sole trial court of general jurisdiction and has the authority to hear all legal controversies (subject to the initial jurisdiction of the Probate Court over some matters), and to sentence those defendants convicted of a criminal offense. The Superior Court is divided into four trial divisions: criminal; civil; family; and housing. There are 12 judicial districts (JD), or Part A courts, and 21 geographical areas (GA), or Part B courts. Generally, major criminal and civil matters are heard at JD courts while minor felonies and misdemeanors, motor vehicle cases, and small claims matters are heard at the GA locations. Juvenile matters are heard in the family division. The state’s juvenile court is divided into 13 districts presided over by Superior Court judges. The Probate Court does not have a criminal jurisdiction.

Top d. Corrections. The juvenile and criminal court can impose various sanctions, or penalties, upon convicted offenders. The most common are incarceration and community supervision. Incarceration services are administered by the Department of Correction and, for children not tried as adults, by the Departments of Children and Families and of Correction. The Board of Parole, Office of Adult Probation, and Juvenile Probation Unit provide community supervision services.

 The Department of Correction (DOC) is the state agency that enforces court-ordered incarceration of pre-trial and convicted criminal offenders who are 16 years and older. The department administers 23 facilities, including the Manson Youth Institution and Maloney Correctional Institution that process male inmates between the ages of 16 and 21 years. All female inmates are housed at either the Niantic (minimum/medium security) or York (maximum security) Correctional Institutions.

 Post-incarceration services are provided by the Board of Parole and the Office of Adult Probation. Parole is the conditional supervised release of an inmate who has served part of the prison term for which he or she was sentenced by the court. The parole board is responsible for determining when an eligible inmate should be granted parole, what conditions to attach, and for supervision and case management. Once paroled, the law requires a parolee to serve the remainder of the full court-imposed sentence under community supervision.

 The Office of Adult Probation is responsible for the supervision of pretrial and convicted offenders referred by the courts and those eligible under presentence and alternative incarceration programs. Probation officers provide supervision and case management services. Probation can be court-ordered as the sole sentence or as a "split-sentence," which is a period of incarceration followed by probation supervision. The level of supervision ranges from minimal contact every few months to intensive daily or weekly contact.

 Top4. The adult criminal case process. The Superior Court’s regular criminal court adjudicates misdemeanor and felony charges filed against persons who are 16 years and older as well as children 14 and 15 years old who are transferred from the juvenile court. The juvenile criminal case process is described in detail in the staff briefing report on substance abuse policies for youth by the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee. 35

Top a. Arrest. The flowchart in Figure III-2 provides an overview of the adult criminal justice process. Adults enter the criminal justice system by an arrest. Arrest involves being taken into custody and detained by the police or being issued a summons mandating a future court appearance and released. Pursuant to a custodial arrest, an offender has certain information recorded by the police, such as fingerprints, physical description, and photograph.


Topb. Case disposition. Adult offenders not released on bond or their own recognizance are held in detention facilities until the initial court appearance, usually the next court date after the arrest. The first court appearance is referred to as the preliminary hearing, and has two purposes. First, defendants are given formal notice of the charges against them, advised of their rights, and the next court date is set. The second purpose of the hearing is to set bail if it has not already been done. The second court date (arraignment) is the gateway to the trial process and the defendant’s first opportunity to respond to the pending criminal charges. The defendant is entitled to have an attorney present at the arraignment as well as at all other court appearances. At the arraignment, the defendant is required to enter a formal plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere to the pending criminal charges. Nolo contendere means "no contest" and is equivalent to a guilty plea but protects the defendant from having an admission of guilt used against him or her in a civil court proceeding.

If a guilty or "nolo" plea is entered by the defendant, the court must confirm that it is based on an informed and voluntary decision. Once this has been confirmed, the defendant is scheduled for a sentencing hearing.

Defendants pleading not guilty are scheduled for trial. If a trial is held, the jury or judge renders a verdict on the guilt of the defendant based upon the evidence presented. If acquitted, the defendant is free to go, but if the defendant is convicted of the charges, a sentencing hearing is held.

Only a very small percentage (about 2 percent) of criminal cases go to trial. The adult criminal justice system relies heavily upon plea bargaining, the process of negotiation between the prosecutor and defense counsel aimed at reaching an agreed-upon disposition of the case. Plea bargaining is based on the prosecutor’s authority to reduce the charges, dismiss or drop multiple charges, and make sentencing recommendations to the court.

Topc. Alternative dispositions. Several statutory alternatives to prosecution are available to first-time offenders, those charged with minor offenses, or defendants who are drug-dependent. Included among these alternatives are accelerated rehabilitation, alcohol education, community service, and court liaison programs. All such programs are administered by the Office of Adult Probation, which supervises program participants and ensures compliance with court-ordered conditions. All of the programs allow for charges to be dismissed upon the successful completion of the program. Table III-4 describes the eligibility and exclusionary criteria for each program and the treatment requirements.

Accelerated rehabilitation (AR)36 is a pre-trial program for first-time adult offenders accused of a crimes "not of a serious nature." Persons charged with class A, B or C felonies (see Table III-5) and any youth previously adjudged a youthful offender are ineligible. A defendant can participate in AR only once. The program requires a period of probation for up to two years, which may include court-ordered conditions such as random drug testing, drug treatment, counseling, and community service. The criminal charges are dismissed upon successful completion of the AR program. If not, the offender is subject to prosecution of the original charges.

Table III-4. Alternative Sentencing Options for Adult Criminal Defendants







Accelerated Rehabilitation (AR) Pre-trial 1st time offenders minor crimes Class A, B, & C felonies one time only up to 2 yrs probation & conditions
Alcohol Education Pre-trial 1st time offenders

DUI offenses

DUI causing injury one time only 8 counseling sessions, treatment, license suspension
Community service labor program Pre-trial possession of drug charge prior drug convictions one time only community work for 2 to 30 days
Court liaison program Pre-trial & convicted class D felonies & class A, B, & C if waived by court; and

drug dependent at time of offense and need treatment

DUI offenders not restricted for pre-trial;

restricted to one time for convicted

out-patient or residential treatment for up to 2 yrs
Judicial outcome for successful completion of all alternative sentencing options is dismissal of charges.

Source of Data: C.G.S.

 The community service labor program37 is a pretrial diversion option for persons charged with possession of illegal drugs. The program requires a defendant to work on a community enhancement project, such as removing graffiti or picking up trash, for a period of two to 30 days. Those with prior drug possession and sale convictions are ineligible. As in the AR and alcohol education programs, the incentive to participate is the dismissal of the charges upon successful completion.

The court liaison program38 provides treatment instead of criminal sanction for drug-dependent persons charged or convicted of class D felonies. Class A, B, or C felonies, except DUI offenses, can be included with the permission of court. DMHAS administers the assessment procedures to determine if the defendant was drug-dependent at the time of the offense and needs and will benefit from treatment. Upon a court order, the offender is placed in an out-patient or residential treatment program for up to two years and supervised by a probation officer.

 The pre-trial alcohol education program39 is available in lieu of prosecution to first-time offenders charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Although restricted to alcohol, it is noted here because an analogous program might be similarly applied with respect to certain illicit drugs. An offender may not participate in the program if the offense caused serious physical injury of another person. A defendant can participate in the program once. The pre-trial alcohol education program involves a minimum of eight alcohol counseling sessions or placement in a treatment program, whichever is recommended by a bail commissioner. During the program, the offender’s drivers license is suspended. The criminal charges are dismissed upon successful completion.

Top d. Alternative sentences. In addition to the pre-trial programs, the courts have alternative sentencing options for convicted drug offenders, including probation or conditional discharge, the alternative incarceration program (AIP)40, and the Youthful Offender (YO)41 program, which imposes community supervision with drug treatment and other conditions instead of incarceration. The courts have broad authority to impose a period of probation or conditional discharge as an alternative to incarceration for any conviction other than for a class A felony. The period of probation can range from five years for a felony to one year for an unclassified misdemeanor. The court may impose a sentence of conditional discharge, which is the least restrictive sentence, for an offense if probation supervision is not appropriate.

 While on probation or conditional discharge, a defendant must comply with supervision conditions, such as drug testing and treatment, psychiatric treatment, residence in a residential community center or halfway house, or participation in a community service labor program. Failure to comply results in a violation of probation.

 The alternative to incarceration program (AIP) was established to divert jailbound offenders from incarceration thereby reducing prison overcrowding. Upon conviction for any offense subject to a prison term, the court can suspend the sentence and order participation in AIP as a condition of probation for up to two years. The program provides residential care, supervision, and support services such as employment, psychiatric and psychological evaluation and counseling, and drug and alcohol treatment. The court can also impose supervision at a day incarceration center, intensive supervision, electronic monitoring, and an order not to contact particular people.

 The law prohibits participation in AIP by defendants convicted of capital or class A felonies; criminal negligent homicide; manslaughter; misconduct with a motor vehicle; sexual assault in a spousal or cohabitation relationship; sale of drugs by a non-dependent; or a crime that has a mandatory minimum sentence.

 The youthful offender (YO) program is an alternative that treats offenders who are 16 or 17 years old less harshly than adult offenders. Young adults charged with a class A felony, aggravated sexual assault, or who have previously been convicted of a felony or participated in the youthful offender or accelerated rehabilitation programs are ineligible.

 Once YO status is granted, the court can: (1) commit the offender to a religious, charitable, or correctional institution for up to three years; (2) impose a fine of up to $1,000; (3) sentence conditional or unconditional discharge or community service; (4) impose a sentence and then suspend it entirely or suspend the sentence after a period of incarceration; (5) order drug or alcohol treatment; or (6) impose the maximum sentence for the offense. All police and court records are erased when the YO reaches the age of 21 years.

Top e. Sanctions. The sanctions available to the court in sentencing adult offenders are categorized as incarceration, community supervision, fines, or combination of the three. Incarceration is confinement in a correctional facility for a fixed period of time specified by the court. The statutes set out a minimum and maximum sentence as guidelines for the court; they are detailed in Table III-5. In addition, certain offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences which must be served and cannot be reduced.

Table III-5. Statutory Penalties for Felony Crimes



Capital life without possibility of release or death
Class A Murder not less than 25 years to life
Class A not less than 10 years to 25 years
Class B Manslaughter not less than 5 years to 40 years
Class B violent crimes* not less than 5 years to 20 years
Class B not less than 1 year to 20 years
Class C not less than 1 year to 10 years
Class C Manslaughter not less than 3 years to 10 years
Class D not less than 1 year to 5 years
Class D violent crimes** not less than 2 years to 5 years
Class D violent crimes*** not less than 3 years to 5 years
Unclassified sentence specified in statute
* Violent crimes included are assault on person 60 years+ or disabled; sexual assault 1; kidnaping; burglary 1 with weapon; and robbery 1 with weapon.

** Crimes included are assault 2 on person 60 years+ or disabled, and possession of a firearm.

*** Crimes included are assault 2 with firearm on person 60 years+ or disabled, and criminal use of a firearm.

Source of Data: C.G.S. 53a-35a

The Department of Correction administers the court’s penalty and assumes custody of the offender after sentencing. The department cannot generally modify the length of the court’s sentence, but it does determine the security and custody needs of the inmate and, by statute, can reduce the sentence length based on an inmate’s good behavior.

 Probation is a period of supervision that allows the pre-trial and convicted offenders to remain, under the supervision of the Office of Adult Probation, in the community either at their own home or in a residential program. Probation can also be imposed after a term of imprisonment. The primary goal of probation is to address the needs of the client in an effort to reduce the likelihood of future criminal activity. Clients are classified as to their risk to re-offend and supervision standards are based on three levels: high, moderate, and low risk. The frequency and intensity of contact between the client and probation officer increases with a higher risk level.

Top f. Drug court. Recent legislation required the Judicial Department to establish a pilot program to adjudicate criminal cases involving drug-dependent offenders (PA 95-131). The purpose of the "drug court" is to divert persons, 16 years old and older, charged with drug or other nonviolent offenses into appropriate substance abuse treatment programs. In addition to treatment, the court orders close supervision, regular drug testing, and other services. The pilot drug court has been operational in the New Haven G.A. court only since July 1996.

Top5. Criminal Justice Statistics

 Criminal justice data cannot be analyzed on a system-wide basis because each agency within the system (i.e., state police, prosecutors, courts, and corrections) collects its own data relating to its unique responsibilities. Therefore, data from several agencies are separately provided to present a general overview of the criminal justice system.

Topa. Arrests. The Connecticut Uniform Crime Report (UCR) tracks the number of juvenile and adult arrests for criminal offenses made by state and local law enforcement agencies. The UCR counts the number of arrests and not the number of criminal acts or charges. Therefore, persons arrested and charged with more than one crime will appear in the system only once -- typically the most serious charge is recorded -- unless the individual was arrested more than once during a year, in which case each arrest is reported separately.

 The UCR categorizes crimes into part 1 and part 2 offenses. Part 1 offenses are the most serious and violent felonies and include murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Part 2 includes all other types of crimes, such as drug violations, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, simple assault, vandalism, weapons violations, and disorderly conduct.

Top b. Court dispositions. Table III-6 presents the type of disposition for criminal cases involving a drug offense. Drug offenses are categorized as: sale, possession, and paraphernalia violations. For each fiscal year under analysis, over 70 percent of case dispositions were not guilty and nolle (dismissed), which are combined in Judicial Department statistical reports. In FY 94/95, 79 percent of all case dispositions were in this category.

Table III-6. Adult Criminal Court Case Dispositions for Drug Offenses









NG &



NG & Nolle


NG &



NG & Nolle


NG & Nolle













































NG = not guilty

Source of Data: Judicial Department

 As shown, about one-half of the cases involving the offense of the sale of drugs result in a guilty verdict. Approximately one-third of the drug possession cases result in a guilty verdict.

 C. Connecticut treatment system.

 Top1. Historical context of treatment programs. Treatment is any program designed to reduce the disability or discomfort and ameliorate the signs and symptoms of substance abuse. It is provided through medical and clinical counseling services. Medical treatment provides diagnostic services, detoxification to manage the withdrawal from alcohol or drugs, chemical maintenance which administers a stable dose of another chemical (i.e., methadone) as a substitute for heroin, and care for related disease or illness. The clinical services offered include counseling, therapy, intervention, education, and other social services, such as housing assistance and vocational and educational training.

 For the century’s first five decades, treatment in the U.S. was largely neglected, and control over the use of drugs or alcohol was primarily the concern of law enforcement officials. Physicians were reluctant to treat addicts for their addiction because of the 1914 federal Harrison Act, which imposed criminal sanctions for using or prescribing opiates for anything other than pain control. Drug addicts were often either placed in prison or psychiatric facilities for the protection of society. While there were exceptions, no comprehensive effort was made to ensure that addicts received appropriate medical treatment.

 Some treatment efforts that were made were repressed under federal law. In response to the 1914 Harrison Act that prohibited physicians from administering controlled drugs as part of a medical maintenance method of treatment, over thirty communities nationwide established clinics to dispense drugs to treat known addicts. The New Haven Police Department, for example, operated such a clinic for several years until 1920. Those clinics enabled registered addicts to maintain themselves with an inexpensive and reliable supply of their needed drug. However, all such clinics in the United States were shut down by federal agents as themselves in violation of the federal Harrison Act. One consequence of the clinic closure in New Haven was an immediate sharp rise in the street price of drugs in New Haven.42

 During the 1960s, substance abuse treatment finally developed into a legitimate field of research and practice. Two primary treatment modes, "medical" and "clinical," emerged and remain the basis for most treatment today.

 Under the medical model, drug addicts are medically treated by maintenance on a surrogate drug that substitutes for the illegal addicting substance. By the late 1960s, this model produced the methadone clinic for the treatment of heroin addiction. The prescribed treatment substitutes daily doses of methadone for the illegal heroin. Support for methadone maintenance treatment stems from the ability of the surrogate drug to address the addict’s physical addiction to heroin and, thereby eliminating or reducing the social and criminal problems surrounding heroin use. Methadone maintenance treatment is, by most measures, the most successful drug treatment program in use today. However, the medical model of using a surrogate drug has yet to be proved successful in treating addiction to a drug other than heroin.

 The clinical model developed as community-based treatment to which substance abusers could turn in a crisis situation. The first phase of crisis clinics eventually evolved into longer-term treatment programs that counseled substance abusers to change established addictive behavior. Treatment professionals realized that removal of addictive drugs was only one part of an overall treatment plan and that the compulsion to use drugs must also be addressed. However, the dynamics of clinical treatment are complex and no single approach to treatment is dominant. Clinical model approaches may be residential or out-patient and may require immediate total abstinence, with alleviation of withdrawal symptoms followed by efforts to sustain abstinence, or may prescribe a slow reduction of drug use with support services. Some programs make use of the medical approach, prescribing drugs for short periods of time. Others reject the medical model and medication of any kind.

 In the early 1970s, public opinion and policy directives became less tolerant of persons with substance abuse problems and of the clinical treatment approach. The focus of the drug problem shifted to the effects of substance abuse on society rather than on the individual addict. Substance abusers were viewed as best dealt with by criminal penalties. By the mid-1970s, clinicians developed approaches to prevent substance abuse and associated criminal activity. Prevention strategies ranged from fear tactics to education, particularly for children, about drugs and their effects.

 Treatment reemerged into national public view in the 1980s with the increased use of cocaine, especially crack cocaine, the problems of poly-drug use, and the problems of users abusing more than one drug or a drug in combination with alcohol. Treatment programs were necessary to deal with new drug users, particularly the middle-class, women, and adolescents, who were abusing cocaine. Treatment and prevention programs also had to respond to a complex variety of serious health and social issues, problems of users such as hepatitis and AIDS, crime, single-parent households, and unemployment. AIDS became an increasing public health danger as it was being spread through needle-sharing and other irresponsible behavior that accompanied drug use. Prior to the 1980s, the predominate treatment for drug abuse involved methadone maintenance for heroin addicts, mostly adult males.

 Federal and state governments also responded to the increase use of cocaine in the 1980s by initiating a "war on drugs" and establishing particularly severe criminal sanctions for drug use. Federal and state funds for treatment and prevention programs were cut and states were given block grants. Much of the money was redistributed toward law enforcement and interdiction efforts. For example, in 1989, federal funds for residential drug treatment were discontinued because substance abuse was reclassified as a mental illness and, therefore, not allowable under Medicaid regulations.

 The most recent trend in substance abuse treatment concerns the administration of treatment services rather than the manner of treatment. The managed care model is currently being applied to many treatment systems and Connecticut is currently developing a statewide network of treatment services based on the managed care approach. Managed care is expected to have a significant impact in the future in determining the levels of and manner of private treatment that is available to drug abusers.

Top 2. Chronology of Connecticut treatment legislation. The first significant legislation on the treatment of substance abuse was enacted in 1967. The same legislation that increased criminal sanctions for the sale and possession of illegal drugs also authorized treatment services. The law recognized that the treatment of drug-dependent persons was a medical problem although the control of illicit traffic in drugs was a law enforcement responsibility. It further authorized the Department of Mental Health to approach substance abuse from a medical standpoint by creating in-patient hospitals and facilities as well as community-based treatment programs and to implement commitment criteria.

In the late 1980s, programs were legislatively created to address the needs of substance abusers infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. In 1990, the Department of Health Services (DHS) was directed to establish a demonstration needle and syringe exchange program with the Connecticut city with the highest incidence of injecting drug users (IDUs) infected with AIDS. IDUs commonly transmit HIV/AIDS via used or "dirty" needles shared with others to inject drugs. The used needles are often shared because needles were illegal and difficult to obtain. The program reduces the sharing of used needles by providing sterile needles to users in exchange for used ones.

 Based on the success of the initial program in New Haven, which reduced the spread of AIDS without a concurrent increase in new drug use,43 the exchange program was expanded to Hartford and Bridgeport. In responding to the needs of the needle program, 1992 legislation decriminalized the sale and possession of hypodermic needles and syringes in quantities of eight or fewer, without a prescription, and amended the definition of drug paraphernalia to exclude needles and syringes in quantities fewer than eight. Most recently, in 1994, the statutory limit on the number of needle exchange programs operating in the state was repealed, and the number of needles that can be purchased and possessed was raised to 10.

 The commitment criteria and procedures for alcohol-dependent and drug-dependent persons were combined in 1990, and new welfare reform legislation in 1991 required that substance abusers get treatment in order to qualify for general assistance benefits. Legislation, directly affecting young people, allowed minors under the age of 18 years to legally consent to alcohol and drug treatment and, for those charged with delinquency, to request an examination for alcohol or drug dependence. If determined to be dependent, the judicial proceeding could be suspended for up to one year while the offender sought treatment. The criminal charges can be dismissed upon successful completion of a program.

 3. Substance Abuse Treatment System

Topa. Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) is the lead agency in the state’s efforts in treating drug abuse. It is required to establish client-based programs and services for the treatment of substance abuse consistent with the statewide plan of treatment. The services must include emergency treatment, inpatient and outpatient treatment, intermediate treatment, and follow-up treatment including appropriate rehabilitation services. The department funds a network of community-based programs and services and administers three residential treatment facilities.

 The department provides treatment services to clients, 18 years and older, who are unable to obtain private care and treatment due to the severity or duration of their addiction or their lack of financial resources and:

 Whose excessive use of chemicals impedes their ability to maintain an independent and functional lifestyle;

Who are unable to remain substance free in a community setting for a period of time;

Whose continued exposure to substance abuse would result in danger to themselves or others; or

Who are pregnant women of any age with a substance abuse problem (services are also provided to their children).

Services are provided directly by the department or through a referred community program or facility. DMHAS may not refuse treatment services to any person because of a previous withdrawal from a treatment program or relapse.

 The department’s Office of Addiction Services (OAS) provides services to persons who are at risk, exposed to, or currently experiencing problems related to substance abuse. It consists of four divisions: Planning; Program Monitoring; Treatment and Coordination; and Prevention, Intervention, and Training, each headed by a director. OAS is assisted by 15 regional action councils (RAC), statutorily created to identify substance abuse problems, resources, gaps in services, and changes to the community; to design programs; and to develop and implement substance abuse treatment plans. The councils do not provide direct services to clients.

 Delivery system. DMHAS currently funds community-based programs administered and operated by private service providers. The types of services provided are based on needs assessments, the statewide substance abuse plan, and historical funding practices. However, DMHAS is developing a single statewide managed care treatment system. The managed care system was recommended in the 1996 Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force44 and is expected to be operational in 1997. The new system will be operated through a regional managed service center and local service networks. The existing grants and aid funding process for community-based programs will change to direct services funding (i.e., fee-for-service). Although a new model for the administration of services is being implemented, a brief overview of the client eligibility criteria to obtain treatment for substance abuse is provided below.

 Direct services. By statute, a drug-dependent person may be admitted to an inpatient DMHAS treatment facility as a voluntary, involuntary, or by emergency patient.

 Voluntary. Any person who is at least 18 years old and is alcohol-dependent or drug-dependent can apply for direct admission to a DMHAS-operated treatment facility and can withdraw from treatment at any time. A parent, guardian, or legal representative may apply for treatment for a person under 18 years of age. The facility administrator and medical officer approve all admissions and may, if admission is refused, refer the person to another department-operated or private treatment facility.

 Involuntary. A person may be involuntarily committed to an inpatient substance abuse treatment facility by order of the Superior Court based on a petition filed by a spouse, relative, conservator or legal representative, physician, or administrator of a treatment facility. A commitment hearing for treatment is held within five business days after the petition is filed. If the petition is granted, the court may order commitment to a residential treatment facility for a period of 30 to 180 days if it finds "clear and convincing evidence" that the respondent is an alcohol- or drug-dependent person, who is dangerous to him or herself or others when intoxicated, or who is severely disabled. The court may not order commitment unless a facility is able to provide adequate and appropriate treatment that is likely to be beneficial to the patient.

 At the end of the commitment period, the client is released unless recommitted by the court for another period of 30 to 180 days. Recommitment is ordered if the client is still drug dependent, is dangerous or disabled or is not successfully participating in an outpatient treatment program. The hearing is held within 10 days of filing the petition and the probable cause is the same as that of the original commitment hearing. A client may only be recommitted once after the original commitment period.

 If recommitment is not sought, the client is automatically discharged and referred to an outpatient treatment facility for follow-up treatment. A person referred to an outpatient treatment facility must remain in treatment for a period of 12 months unless the person is discharged by the program administrator or a recommitment order for inpatient treatment is obtained.

 Emergency. A drug-dependent person may receive emergency treatment at any DMHAS-operated or private facility if he or she: (1) is intoxicated at the time of application and is dangerous to himself or herself or others; or (2) needs medical treatment for detoxification on account of potentially life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal from drugs. A physician, spouse, guardian, relative, or any other responsible person may request emergency treatment.

 A person cannot be detained for emergency treatment longer than five days. However, a petition for involuntary commitment may be filed by the facility administrator and the patient may be detained until a decision on the petition has been made, but no longer than an additional five days.

 Topb. Department of Children and Families. The Department of Children and Families funds a network of community-based treatment programs and a residential facility for children under 18 years of age. Children receive treatment either voluntarily (non-committed) or involuntarily by court-ordered commitment to DCF as an adjudicated delinquent or as part of a family with service needs.

 4. DMHAS Treatment Statistics

 Topa. Admissions to treatment. Since July 1990, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services reported more than 250,000 admissions at either funded or provided substance abuse treatment programs or facilities. Admissions are counted separately and an individual can be admitted to treatment more than once. Addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disorder. It is estimated that over 50 percent of all alcohol and drug patients are expected to relapse, and 6 percent of those who do relapse will do so many times.45

 As shown in Table III-7, treatment services are categorized as programs funded or operated by DMHAS, which also includes federal funds, and those funded by other sources, such as private, for-profit clinics. The majority of substance abuse treatment admissions were for department-funded, community-based programs that provide a range of services, such as residential or outpatient, detoxification, intensive, or aftercare services. Although each admission category experienced an increase in the number of clients during the past five fiscal years, the sharpest rise has been in the number of admissions to DMHAS-operated facilities. Admissions in this category dramatically increased 600 percent from FY 92 to FY 93, and have continued to increase during the past three fiscal years.

  Table III-7. Number Admissions to Treatment Programs


DMHAS Funded

DMHAS Operated

Not DMHAS Funded




Est. 7,000





Est. 7,000























Source of Data: DMHAS Client Information Collection System


Topb. Length of treatment. As shown in Figure III-3, the average length of stay (measured in days) in community-based and DMHAS-operated treatment programs has been declining since fiscal year 92. The most drastic reduction has been in the length of stay at department treatment facilities, which decreased from an average of approximately 130 days in FY 91 and FY 92 to only 13 days in FY 93.

 Currently, the average length of stay is about 80 days in a community-based treatment program and 40 days at private facilities.


Topc. Primary substances. As shown in Figure III-4, in fiscal year 95 almost half (47 percent) of the patients received treatment for alcohol abuse; 26 percent for heroin; and 19 percent for cocaine. Only 5 percent of the clients were treated for a marijuana abuse and less than 3 percent for all other drugs combined. Alcohol, heroin, and cocaine were the primary substance abuse problems treated over the past five fiscal years. It should be noted that many of the clients receiving treatment services reported poly-drug use or a combination of drug and alcohol use.

As shown in Table III-8, a review of Connecticut data of persons treated for illicit drugs only shows that heroin abuse accounts for almost half (49%) of the persons treated; 36% for cocaine; and 9% for marijuana.

Table III-8. DMHAS Client’s Primary Drug Abuse Problem: FY 95
Heroin 49%
Cocaine 36%
Marijuana 9%
Other Illicit Drugs 6%
Total 100%

 The intent of this section was to present an overview of the involvement of the criminal justice and treatment systems in cases of drug offenses. Based on the data, no conclusions were reached about the causes or implication of drug abuse on these systems. However, a more in-depth analysis will be conducted of the adjudication of drug offense criminal cases. Data will be collected and analyzed on a random sample of cases.

TopD. Education.

 As early as 1884, Connecticut mandated that the effects of alcohol and drugs be taught in public schools by licensed teachers. By 1902, alcohol and drug education was required to begin in the fourth grade and to continue up to the high school grades. Alcohol and drug education was not required for a student after the beginning of high school. A 1949 revision required that the effect of alcohol and drugs, as well as of nicotine or tobacco, be taught each year to all public school students in all grades. In 1978, legislation established a curriculum requirement for substance abuse prevention as part of the health and safety instruction in the public schools, and imposed an annual reporting requirement on schools. Seventeen years later, in 1995, the legislature removed the power of the state Board of Education to prescribe the content of substance abuse education courses, placing the authority in the local school boards.

 In 1993, school boards were mandated to adopt policies and procedures for dealing with students’ use, sale, or possession of drugs on school grounds. These policies and procedures include a process for referring students to appropriate agencies and cooperating with law enforcement officials. In 1996, a new requirement for school boards to provide in-service training for teachers and administrators on risk reduction behavior and the nature and relationship of drugs and alcohol to health and personality development was established.

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