New Connecticut law will eliminate some of the harshest drug penalties in the country

Connecticut officials and policy experts say the state's drug laws will transform from some of the most draconian in the country to some of the most lenient this fall. That's when most drug possession crimes will become misdemeanors instead of felonies.

State lawmakers on Monday approved legislation proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on bipartisan votes. The effort is part of a movement in both liberal and conservative states to save hundreds of millions of dollars by decreasing prison populations.

The changes include eliminating a mandatory two-year prison term for possessing drugs within 1,500 feet of a school.

State officials estimate the new law will save Connecticut about $19 million in prison costs over the next two years by decreasing the prison population.