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Capitol Rally Urges Decriminalization Of Marijuana

By CHRISTINE DEMPSEY

April 21, 2009

Holding signs that said "Honk if you love pot" and "No cuffs for cannabis," dozens of spirited demonstrators on the lawn of the state Capitol rallied Monday for a bill seeking to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The demonstration was organized by the Connecticut chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. It was timed to correspond with other events the national group sponsored across the country. April 20 has been a day of pro-pot parties and rallies since the 1970s.

Organizer Dominic Vita of Enfield said he supports the legalization of marijuana. An Iraq war veteran, Vita has suffered from abdominal and joint pain and food allergies since he returned, he said, and smoking marijuana gives him relief.

A bill being considered by the legislature which Gov. M. Jodi Rell opposes would make possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana an infraction that could be paid like a speeding ticket. Both the bill's backers, including its sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney of New Haven, say if the bill becomes law, it could save the state more than $11 million.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Dan Ayers of Newington, who wore a baseball-style cap with drawings of marijuana leaves on it and the word "Amsterdam," where pot-smoking is tolerated. The rally got off to a slow start, with only six demonstrators at 2:30 p.m. It was supposed to start at 2 p.m. The demonstrators lining the sidewalk of Capitol Avenue grew in numbers as the afternoon wore on, with more than 40 at 4 p.m. They cheered after every motorist's beep of support. One played a tambourine, some led chants with help from a megaphone.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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