Vermont state senators introduce marijuana decriminalization bill

A tri-partisan group of nine senators introduced a bill on Wednesday that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The bill proposes “to change the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by a person 21 years of age or older from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil fine.” For individuals under the age of 21, however, they would face the same penalties that they do for underage possession of alcohol.

Civil fines would be capped at $100 per incident, and fifth-time offenders would face a maximum charge of $500.

The revenue generated by the proposed fines would be split evenly — minus a $12.50 administrative charge per incident — between funds for law enforcement officers on the state’s drug task force and a court drug awareness and safety program for teens.

Gov. Peter Shumlin called on the Legislature to approve a marijuana decriminalization bill before the session began, and House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morrisville, who has opposed such measures in the past, has said he “will not stand in the way” this year.

If Vermont passed this legislation, it would join 13 states that have already decriminalized marijuana — not including Washington and Colorado, which legalized the substance for recreational use earlier this year.

Oregon became the first state to decriminalize marijuana in the early 1970s; and Ohio, Alaska and Wisconsin quickly followed suit.

Sponsors of the marijuana decriminalization bill:
• Sen. Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden
• Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia
• Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden
• Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington
• Sen. Sally Fox, D-Chittenden
• Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor
• Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington
• Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham
• David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden

Andrew Stein


  1. Francis Covey :

    Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.

    • Sam Langhorne :

      > “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.”

      ( What King George III said )

  2. Joey Ismail :

    Nice to see a little common sense progress. It isn’t legalization but it is a BIG step forward.

  3. Mike Kerin :

    Like alcohol, prohibition doesn’t work. Pot which I don’t use is actually less harmful than tobacco or alcohol (I also don’t use them).
    This bill could free the police to work on the real bad drugs. It could free up some beds in the prisons and make room for real crooks.

  4. John Skalecki :

    For such a forward thinking liberal state Vermont is way behind in Marijuana legislation. The Marijuana laws have been a joke for years now. They need to go by the way of the old Jim Crow laws, be gone and forgotten like ancient history. VT needs to pass this if only to keep up its brave progressive reputation.

  5. Jenny Kerr :

    Cannabis has greatly improved my quality of life. Three years ago I became ill and my doctors gave up on me. Now I find it impossible to find a doctor that will listen in the Burlington area. A year ago I began smoking cannabis more than socially and it greatly helped my chronic pain and nausea.

  6. Bobby Weir :

    !00 Bucks?? This is a joke legalize it and move on!

  7. kevin lawrence :

    Why have a fine at all?

    • Christian Noll :

      Good Question.

      My answer is that the state hasn’t learned how to “put the money on the other end” meaning their profit side.

      We already have the police and military industrial complexes in place so that we can stimulate our economy by attacking ourselves with profits of enforcement and fear mongering.

      The state needs to learn how to put the money “on the other end.”

  8. Leila LaRosa :

    Can we please just legalize it and move on? These legal gray areas are a waste of time.

  9. Republican Representative Kurt Wright would rather use pot smokers as pawns in uncovering harder drugs than decriminalize a large non violent base of Vermont citizens. Marijuana (and all other drug) laws were first founded on racism and ignorance. It is a shame drug laws still exist. They only entrench criminal enterprise, marginalize otherwise law abiding citizens while allowing an opening for the creation of harder drugs. IMHO crack cocaine would never of been invented if we had sane drug laws in the first place AND many young folks would never have been exposed to hard drugs if marijuana was regulated like beer.



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