Since the start of this year’s debate in the state legislature on the marijuana decriminalization bill, many have been wondering how it would impact real-life cases. In the high-profile case of UConn basketball player Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, his arrest on possession charges would have been an infraction not unlike a speeding ticket (he was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia).
Under the bill that has passed the judiciary committee, possession of less than half an ounce of pot would be decriminalized. Coombs-McDaniel was charged with having 5.6 grams or 0.2 ounces.
Coombs-McDaniel’s case is obviously different because he has to abide by team rules in addition to the law. He is transferring from UConn although Coach Jim Calhoun, who has joked about his own rule-breaking, indicated the transfer has to do with playing time. Yeah, right.
However, the story of the 6-fot-7 basketball player is indicative of how an arrest in small amounts of pot can affect someone’s life says Erik Williams, president of the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Marijuana Reform Laws (NORML), the group that has spearheaded both the decriminalization bill and the effort to legalize medical marijuana. Both bills are advancing through the legislative process and Williams says he thinks the chances are good that both will pass. “[Coombs-McDaniel] clearly has to deal with team rules but it shows just how devastating a drug arrest can be. A criminal charge for such a small amount of marijuana can be very destructive to someone for the rest of their lives. And it happens to a lot of people” he said.