This evening as the legislative session heads into its final week, Representative Jason Perillo (R-113) stood in opposition to a bill which reduces the size of drug-free zones around schools and daycares statewide from 1500 feet to 300 feet.
“This bill has been proposed as a solution to crime in urban areas,” said Rep. Perillo. “My community doesn’t want to see a reduction of the 1500 foot drug-free zone around schools and if you asked them they probably wish it were larger. But let’s think about what we are doing here. We are lessening the penalty for the dealing of drugs. That’s all we are doing. The penalty for dealing drugs 1000 feet from a school will be lower. Let’s not fool ourselves that it does anything else.”
Perillo noted that advocates of the bill suggested that in most urban areas that are densely populated the entire geographic area of the community technically falls within a demarcated “Drug-Free Zone,” therefore reducing the likelihood that drug dealers will feel any additional restraint from the law that acts as motivation to avoid schools and daycares. Perillo rejected the argument.
“We should be asking ourselves is who is this legislation helping,” said Perillo. “This bill doesn’t help children who are walking home from school or out on the playground. It doesn’t help the parents who are trying to keep their children safe from these criminals. Instead, this bill helps drug dealers. It purports to solve an urban problem but reduces this zone in every community across the state regardless if they are urban or suburban. Drug dealers are a predatory scourge that won’t be removed by lowering criminal penalties on them.”
The current penalty for using or possessing with intent to use drug paraphernalia (other than in relation to less than one-half ounce of marijuana) is a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in prison, a fine of up to $500 or both. Delivering, possessing or manufacturing them with intent to deliver is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of $2,000, or both. The enhanced penalties mandate one year in prison for using illegal drug paraphernalia in a Drug-Free Zone, two years in prison for possession, and three years in prison for selling, manufacturing or distributing.
By a vote of 78-65, an amendment which became the bill was approved despite opposition by all Republicans and a handful of Democrats. After lengthy debate, the bill, HB 6511, An Act Concerning the Recommendations of the Connecticut Sentencing Commission Regarding the Enhanced Penalty for the Sale or Possession of Drugs near a Schools, Day Care Centers, and Public Housing Project was “passed temporarily” meaning it was withdrawn from debate for the time being, but could be brought back out at any time before adjournment at midnight on Wednesday, June 5th, 2013.