MONTPELIER, VT – A bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana has made it through the Vermont legislature, winning final approval Monday. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) has said he supports it. If he indeed signs it, Vermont will become the 17th state to either decriminalize or legalize marijuana.
Senate Bill 48, sponsored by Sen. Joe Benning, and House Bill 200, sponsored by Rep. Chris Pearson, would impose a civil fine on possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Under H. 200, a person under 21 who is found in possession of up to an ounce of marijuana would have to undergo substance abuse screening and possible treatment. That language was carried over in the final votes.
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.
“We applaud the Vermont Legislature for adopting this much-needed legislation and setting an example for other states in the region and around the country,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The exceptionally broad support demonstrated for this measure reflects the progress our nation is making toward adopting a new and more sensible approach to marijuana policy.”
The Marijuana Policy Project has spent years lobbying for marijuana reform in Vermont.
“The days of criminalizing people simply for using a substance less harmful than alcohol are coming to an end,” Simon said.
That’s already the case in most of the states in the region. Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island have all decriminalized pot possession. In New England, New Hampshire is now the lone hold-out.
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