Vermont Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Assigned to Senate Committee

Vermont Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Assigned to Senate Committee

MONTPELIER, VT –  A bill that would decriminalize possession of limited amounts of marijuana, having already passed in the House, has been received by the Senate and assigned to the  Senate Judiciary Committee.  The bill has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate.

The Vermont House of Representatives gave final approval earlier this week by a 92-49 vote to House Bill 200, introduced by Rep. Christopher Pearson (P-Burlington) with a tri-partisan group of 38 co-sponsors in February.

The bill would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket. Those under age 21 would be required to undergo substance abuse screening.

Under current state law, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail for a first offense and up to two years in jail for a subsequent offense.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell and Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn testified in favor of the proposal at House committee hearings, and Gov. Peter Shumlin has also expressed support.

“We hope members of the Senate will agree with their colleagues in the House and our state’s top law enforcement officials that it is time for a more sensible approach to marijuana policy in Vermont,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “There is no need to subject people to life-altering criminal penalties simply for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.”

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Vermont voters support removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replacing them with a civil fine, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in February 2012.

“Most Vermont voters agree that simple marijuana possession should no longer warrant harsh criminal penalties,” Simon said. “If public safety is the goal, law enforcement officials’ focus should be on violent crimes and not on adults possessing small amounts of a safer product than alcohol.”

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  • Dr. Paul

    Hmm, 2/3 VT approve decriminalization / legalization. Of the remaining 1/3, perhaps 50% or more are simply ill-informed by previous erroneous and dangerous propaganda tactics from the Truman Administration. The same ones creating the cold war, because of their treacherous pinko problem, and ultimately, our bad relations with southern neighbors, especially Cuba, and around the world.

    The path to correct, responsible, and enlightening government policy concerning its citizens, lays in restoring freedom and human rights, in my opinion. In particular, the right to cultivate and consume all naturally occurring substances, and one generation of (distilling), as with alcohol. After the prohibition, alcohol legalization was restored, yet the others were not (including marijuana). An inappropriate vote in the legislature 15 years later, made it enforceable, and on the DEA list as level 1, ever since. This is not only a gross error, but the cause of immeasurable hardship on the people of America ever since then (for over 1/2 century).

    The government is there for the people, not the other way around, as many in office seem to show. The people have continuously request legalization of marijuana and hemp since the government decided to make it the “#1 enemy of the public”. Wait, 2/3 of this state (and likely the entire country) are openly stating their wish to decriminalize it or better. Wouldn’t this make the government the #1 public enemy? Is this really good for anyone? Please stop being our enemy, instilling discipline through fear, instead of good things like “in God we trust”. Please start being our friend, organizer, and assistant in achieving personal happiness, wellness, and enrichment. Let us choose for ourselves. Give the DEA a break, and free them to go after the real drug problem of pharmaceutical abuse.

  • Dose of reality

    Let’s see now, 63% of the respondents to a survey in Feb, when many of our senior citizens are snowbirding elsewhere, favor decriminalizing marijuana. That’s 63% of the registered voters in Vermont, no wait a minute, that’s a scientifically significant proportion of registered voters in a public policy poll who voiced their support. How many yeas and nays were actually counted in this poll? How come unregistered and underage residents weren’t asked? How many of those that responded had their eligibility verified? How many that responded were actually informed enough to give an educated opinion? Were studies supporting one opinion or another referenced in the survey?
    Numbers and statistics can be massaged and manipulated to add up to whatever your side wants them to say. To say that 2/3’s of ALL Vermonters want to decriminalize pot is disingenuous at best and a bold face lie on its face. Senior citizens are under-represented in Feb and are decidedly not pro-pot, unregistered voters and underage residents are excluded from the polls as well. College students, while voter eligible, are not Vermonters, they’re largely out-of-staters living their wild life here in our fair state. How many of these free spirits comprised the poll sample?
    To say that pot is less, or more, harmful then alcohol is pure conjecture. Let’s hope that when you need medical assistance or are overflying Chicago at 30,000 feet you don’t have to rely on the wisdom and skills of a professional “enjoying their right to light up”.

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