Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman cast the deciding vote after an initial 18-18 tie.
While opponents of the bill, Governor’s Bill 1014, said it sends the wrong message, proponents said the legislation will help young people arrested for marijuana possession to avoid a criminal record that could hurt their chances to find a good job or enter college.
Possession of any amount of marijuana in Connecticut currently can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a criminal record. The bill the Senate approved Saturday evening would carry a $150 fine and no criminal record for those caught with a half-ounce or less. After the first offense the fine would be between $200 and $500.
Those under 21 years old would face a 60-day driver’s license suspension, similar to the existing penalty for possessing alcohol.
Shortly after the bill passed, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former prosecutor, urged the House of Representatives to pass the decriminalization bill before the session ends. He called it a “commonsense” reform to the criminal justice system.
All 14 Republicans voted against the bill, as did Democrats Joan Hartley, Gayle Slossberg, Paul Doyle and Edward Meyer, resulting in an 18-18 tie. Wyman, who as lieutenant governor is presiding officer of the Senate, broke the tie in favor of the bill, her first exercise of the power since taking office in January.