(Updated 5:15 p.m.) The Judiciary Committee heard testimony Tuesday regarding a bill that decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana.

According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, there were 9,928 marijuana arrests in Connecticut in 2007, which represents 7 percent of total arrests statewide. Based on prior research findings, it is estimated that approximately 33 percent of those arrests – or 3,300 – were for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

“Based on a proportionate analysis of resources currently allocated to handle these offenses, it is estimated that the proposal could save up to $11 million and generate $320,000 in General Fund revenue – from fines – annually,” the OFA report says.

“Senate Bill 349 represents a compassionate and pragmatic policy,” Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said.  “Our state should not encourage illegal drug use; however, possession of marijuana for personal use should not leave a person with a life-long criminal record. This bill would also create budgetary savings. It would reduce costs to police departments, the court system, and the offices of the public defenders and the state’s attorneys.”

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said she opposes the law because marijuana is a gateway drug for youngsters.

“I became aware of the detrimental impact of marijuana use several years ago after a very emotional and tearful appeal from a mother and father who had found their talented son dead from a drug overdose at home in his bed. Marijuana is a gateway for other drugs, and it was cited by his parents as the real killer of their son. This personal appeal and countless others is the reason I advocate so strongly against the effort to decriminalize marijuana,” Boucher said.

Click here to view a copy of the bill and here to see the testimony submitted for today’s hearing.