Eight months after a law decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana went into effect, the University of Connecticut has equalized penalties for possession of the drug with that of alcohol.
Sam Tracy, president of UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government, said the changes were posted on the Office of Community Standards’ website Tuesday following a meeting with student leaders.
Previously, students found in possession of alcohol received a warning and were required to complete the UConn Compass counseling program, as well as a wellness and prevention education program while students found in possession of a small amount of marijuana faced possible suspension on the first offense.
Now, first offenders of either stripe may receive a warning, UConn Compass counseling, and wellness and prevention education.
The new law says that individuals over the age of 21 who are busted with less than half an ounce of marijuana will get a $150 ticket for their first offense. The fine for possession increases on subsequent offenses, and on the third time, offenders will be required to pay out-of-pocket to attend drug education classes.The new law changes little for minors, who will still automatically be referred to juvenile court.
The fine for underage students being caught with alcohol on campus is $181, but if there are aggravating factors or a history of offenses those students can face other sanctions.
While the punishment for marijuana possession has been changed for students at UConn, the procedure has not. Resident Assistants who suspect that a student may be in possession of marijuana are required to call the police.
University Spokesman Michael Kirk said that the university’s policy regarding minor marijuana possession was amended over the summer by John Saddlemire, UConn’s vice president for student affairs, and has been in effect for the entire academic year.
Tracy said that the policy was informal and had not been communicated to the student body before the changes were posted online Tuesday.
“It might have been a change in their internal policies, but no one was told and it wasn’t codified,” Tracy said.
When asked if students found to be in possession of small amounts of marijuana on campus during the Fall 2011 semester were disciplined according to the new policy, Kirk said in an email “It’s possible. It depends on the circumstances in each individual case.”
A spokesman for the UConn Police Department did not return a call for comment.
Police departments across the state have been doing their best to adjust to the change in the law.
Click here to read more about how they’re handling it.