Today, the Vermont Senate Appropriations Committee voted 4-3 to approve S. 241, a bill that would end marijuana prohibition for adults and create a regulated and taxed system for marijuana production and sale. The bill has already been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.
Next, S. 241 will move to the Senate floor for a vote by the full Senate, which will probably happen later this week. If it passes there, it will go to the House of Representatives, and the committee process will begin anew after the legislature takes a break for Town Meeting Week (February 29 to March 4).
Last week, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell and two former attorneys general, Jerome Diamond and Kimberly Cheney, sent a letter to legislators encouraging them to move forward with the proposal to end prohibition and regulate marijuana.
Earlier today, Vermont Public Radio released the results of a new poll conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute that found 55% of Vermonters support passing a law to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. Only 32% said they are opposed. The survey of 895 Vermonters was conducted February 3-17.
If you are a Vermont resident, please send them an email urging them to support S. 241.
Following the governor’s signature on Thursday, Vermont became the latest state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
On June 28, Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signed House Bill 200 into law. The law, which goes into effect July 1, eliminates criminal penalties for the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and replaces them with civil fines. First-time offenders will face up to a $200 fine, while repeat offenders cannot be charged more than $500 per offense.
The governor has been a vocal proponent of marijuana policy reform for years, and announced his support for the bill after it passed through the Senate last month. “Vermonters support sensible drug policies, “ he said. “This legislation allows our courts and law enforcement to focus their limited resources more effectively to fight highly addictive opiates such as heroin and prescription drugs that are tearing apart families and communities.”
The measure has been popular among voters and state officials alike: the House and Senate approved the tripartisan-sponsored bill with large majorities; numerous public officials, including Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn and Attorney General William Sorrell, testified in its favor; and 63% of Vermonters expressed support for decriminalization in a 2012 poll.
MPP’s Matt Simon applauded the law, saying, “This is a much-needed step forward toward a more sensible marijuana policy. Nobody should be subjected to life-altering criminal penalties simply for possessing a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.”
Vermont legalized medical marijuana in 2004 and is now the 17th state to eliminate the threat of jail for simple possession.
This afternoon, Vermont became the 15th state to decriminalize marijuana possession (two others have made it legal). Gov. Peter Shumlin, a vocal champion of sensible marijuana policies, signed H. 200 at about 1:30 p.m.
Beginning on July 1, H. 200 will eliminate Vermont’s criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and replace them with civil fines for adults and generally with diversion for those under 21. Click here for details on how H. 200 will change Vermont’s penalty structure.
This is a major victory for MPP and our legislative allies in Montpelier, who have worked hard to build support for this sensible reform.
The next step for Vermont policymakers will be to consider legal alternatives to the illicit market for marijuana. Attorney General William Sorrell has publicly argued in favor of decriminalizing plants, and many legislators have made the case for replacing marijuana prohibition with a taxed and regulated system.
After years of work, a bill that would stop the criminalization of Vermont’s marijuana users is headed to the floor of the Vermont House of Representatives. It could get a vote as early as Friday.
Over the last week, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on both sides of the issue. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, and many others testified in support, and the committee listened. Yesterday, it voted 9-2 in favor of reform.
But the opposition is making their voices heard, too. Yesterday, several police are lobbying against this modest proposal to impose a civil fine — not possible jail time — on possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. It’s vital that lawmakers hear from the 63% of Vermonters who believe police have better things to do than to arrest and book marijuana users.
If you live in Vermont, please write your lawmakers today. Politely ask them to support reducing the penalty imposed on Vermonters who possess a substance that is safer than alcohol. Then, share this message with other sensible Vermonters so that they, too, can speak out for reform.