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Drug Free School Zone Bill Quietly Dies

by Hugh McQuaid | Apr 25, 2014 4:30am
(10) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education, Town News, Law Enforcement, Legal, Local Politics, Public Safety

Christine Stuart photo

Legislation to reduce the size of “drug free zones” around schools died quietly in the Education Committee on Thursday following a meeting outside the House chamber.

The perennial bill would have reduced the areas around schools which trigger automatic harsh penalties for drug convictions. The current policy is an issue in urban communities where the zones make up most, if not entire cities. As a result, anyone who’s convicted of a drug charge in those cities faces a stiffer penalty.

Proponent Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, attended the Education Committee’s meeting Thursday and said there was little discussion about the bill before the committee members declined to let it progress.

“The chair asked if there were any questions on the bill. There were no questions,” Holder-Winfield said. When the votes were tallied later that morning “we didn’t have the votes we needed, so unfortunately the bill wound up dead.”

The bill was defeated in an 11-17 vote. Holder-Winfield said opponents of the bill did not make arguments against the proposal. “It just kind of died a little, lonely, pitiful death,” he said.

Courtesy of the Prison Policy Initiative

Bridgeport and Bridgewater’s Drug Free School Zones

The bill’s failure is frustrating for proponents who have sought the legislation for years. The proposal has twice been endorsed by the state’s nonpartisan Sentencing Commission. The bill made it as far as a floor debate in the House last year, but was shelved when support began to wane among Democrats.

Holder-Winfield said he intends to bring the legislation back next year and will work to educate other lawmakers on the impact of the current policy. He said there is an enhanced penalty for dealing drugs to kids, with or without the drug free zones.

“Absent the school drug zones — let’s say we completely eviscerated them — there would still be enhanced penalties,” he said. Independent of the school zones, selling drugs to a child carries a least a three-year penalty.

“But we recognize the importance of the school or daycare center” and have proposed to keep the zone within 200 feet of the perimeter of the schools, he said. Currently there is a 1,500-foot area around the schools or daycare centers.

A similar bill squeaked out of the Education Committee on a 15-14 vote last year. The panel’s ranking Republican, Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton, said lawmakers should be more reluctant to reduce the penalty zones in the wake of a law passed by the legislature in 2011 which decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.

“The fact that now the penalty for pot is so reduced, it’s almost like a parking ticket, it has emboldened those who are unscrupulous and do deal drugs to young children to target these areas,” she said.

Boucher said she has met with parents in housing projects in the city of Norwalk who have urged her not to change the drug free zones around the homes.

“They want them to be stronger than weaker. One mother said that she sees drug dealers under her window every single day and is so angered by this and that her children are exposed to this kind of activity,” she said. “She would like there to be drug free zones around her entire city if we could do that.”

Holder-Winfield said he hoped to convince some of his colleagues the current law is bad public policy, even if their constituents do not want to see a change.

“Our constituencies have enough intelligence to understand something that they may not agree with, but if we’ve got information that says what we believed wasn’t true and if we explain to them, they can understand it. They are adults, they get to vote and information helps to change things. That’s part of our job,” he said.

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(10) Comments

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | April 25, 2014  6:40am

DrHunterSThompson

If you know the facts and are aware of the stats from around the country, you know our current law is bad policy.

So, either our legislators are not paying attention and are voting on something they know nothing about, or they are stupid. Either way they must go - vote them out!

Send’em packin! Then twist one up and celebrate!

HST

posted by: Joebigjoe | April 25, 2014  6:43am

Drug dealers are really just low life scum.

Giving someone something that could negatively impact them every single day of the rest of their lives (because you just don’t know who will be an addict), is evil.

For any legislator to worry about these people and their needs is reprehensible.

The “it’s just a little weed” argument has been destroyed in the last 7 days with two landmark studies.

posted by: Matt from CT | April 25, 2014  7:02am

>They want them to be
>stronger than weaker.

Then eliminate the school zone penalty and increase everywhere.

Because God knows we can’t actually have a rational policy like legalize, regulate, tax and address addiction through social stigmatization (hello cigarettes) and health care.

posted by: Bluecoat | April 25, 2014  9:36am

Excellent News.
I always thought this was a bill that would allow those with vacant properties in run down industrial areas in our cities and towns that were close to schools,  to jump on the Marijuana growing bandwagon.

posted by: mmal231294 | April 25, 2014  12:32pm

Republicans toe this silly line because they were raised to believe that all substances that have been deemed illegal by a poltician(legislation)MUST be evil. They trust that a politician can differentiate between a truly harmful substance and one that is simply in the media spotlight that month. And they believe that men have the right legislate morality. I don’t. I believe that as an American I have the G.D. right to put whatever substance in my body that I choose, toxic or not.

posted by: Stan Muzyk | April 25, 2014  2:20pm

@mmal231294: Your slanted mind-game wisdom shot at minority control state legislative Republicans should be taken with “a small grain of salt.>”

posted by: dano860 | April 26, 2014  6:52am

mma1231294, so you think we need to follow Colorado and legalize everything. After seeing the effects on their cities I don’t think I would like the same here.
Of course it does allow for the dealer business to move down the age chain, like to the fourth graders that were busted dealing the stuff they stole from mom and dad.
Not the way to raise revenue, we need to start the cutting of spending.

posted by: StillRevolting | April 26, 2014  10:56am

All that’s needed to demonstrate that this bill would have made life a bit more fair in Connecticut is the graphic above. Plus, they could have made life more fair without stealing any more of my pay for another failed redistribution scheme. I’m sad.

posted by: mmal231294 | April 28, 2014  7:34am

Dano LMAO, “After seeing the effects on their cities I don’t think I would like the same here” I know its only been 5 months but crime is DOWN since they legalized. So yes please. 4th graders? Total red herring, fail.

posted by: Joebigjoe | April 28, 2014  10:38am

I dont think they should be expelled but students bringing in butter knives to cut fruit at lunch have been more harshly punished.