Hearings on bills to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in Vermont will be held by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, April 3 and the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, April 4.
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, and Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan are scheduled to testify in support of the bill at the House hearing. Flynn and Donovan are also scheduled to testify in support of the bill at the Senate hearing.
House Bill 200, introduced by Rep. Christopher Pearson (P-Burlington) with a tripartisan group of 38 co-sponsors, and Senate Bill 48, introduced by Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) with a tripartisan group of eight co-sponsors, would remove criminal penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $100, similar to a traffic ticket.
Those under age 21 would be required to perform community service and to attend a drug awareness and safety program. 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.
“This legislation enjoys exceptionally broad support because it just makes sense,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “There is absolutely no compelling reason to subject people to criminal records and jail time simply for possessing a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.”
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.
There is strong public support for such legislation, according to a survey of Vermont voters conducted by Public Policy Polling last February. It found nearly two-thirds (63%) of voters support “a change in the law to provide for a fine of up to $150 without jail time for those who possess an ounce or less of marijuana for personal use.”
“Adults should not be branded as criminals simply for possessing a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization. “Vermont voters want their state to adopt a more sensible approach to marijuana, and that is what H.200 and S.48 propose.”
There are currently 16 other states that have removed criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession. Two of those states, Colorado and Washington, have removed all penalties for adult possession and are establishing systems in which marijuana production and sales will be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.
You must be logged in to post a comment.