News Release — Marijuana Policy Project
June 5, 2013
ESSEX JUNCTION –- Gov. Peter Shumlin is scheduled to sign legislation Thursday that will decriminalize possession of limited amounts of marijuana in Vermont, making it the 17th state in the nation to decriminalize or legalize marijuana. The signing will take place at 1 p.m. during the governor’s remarks at the Statewide Criminal & Juvenile Justice Training Conference at the Inn at Essex in Essex Junction (70 Essex Way).
“We commend Gov. Shumlin, the state’s top law enforcement officials, and the legislature for their leadership and support of this important legislation,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbied in support of the bill. “The governor’s signature marks another major milestone in the evolution of marijuana policy in Vermont.
“Removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession slows the bleeding, but it will not stop until marijuana prohibition is replaced with a more sensible policy,” Simon said. “Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol and it is time for the state to start exploring policies that treat it that way.”
H. 200, introduced by Rep. Christopher Pearson (P-Burlington) with a tripartisan group of 38 co-sponsors, will 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 will 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 bill, which was approved in the Senate (24-6) on May 7 and in the House (98-44) on April 12. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Vermont voters support such a proposal, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in February 2012.