Marijuana

Vermont's Legislature Just Voted to Decriminalize Marijuana

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Community College of Vermont / photo on flickr

The Vermont House approved Senate changes to a marijuana decriminailzation bill this morning. The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. According to a Marijuana Policy Project press release, Shumlin will likely sign it "in the coming weeks." 

The whole process took a little over two months. Vermont's marijuana decriminalization bills–H.200 in the House and S.48 in the Senate–were introduced the first week of February. The Vermont House first approved the bill on April 16, the Senate approved it and returned it to the House last week. Today the House approved changes to the bill. Now it goes to Shumlin.

Here's what the legislation does, per MPP:

"[The bill] 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 would 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.

Incidentally, Project SAM–the anti-marijuana group launched by former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (R-RI) and former drug czar advisor Kevin Sabet–started a Vermont chapter in late April. Considering that many legalization advocates (as well as the city of Burlington) see Vermont as a good candidate for tax-and-regulate, it's likely that Project SAM will be an active–and loud–participant in that debate. 

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  1. Bring back the ‘groovy uv’ label!

  2. [The bill] 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.

    War on Drugs is solved! Cops never devoted extravagant amounts of time and resources on traffic tickets.

    1. Cops never devoted extravagant amounts of time and resources on traffic tickets.

      Not in Vermont, especially outside of Burlington.

      1. I hope it works out for Vermont, but “decriminalization” is often just a shell game without a pea.

        1. Yeah. Decriminalization basically says “White middle-class parents, don’t worry if your kids smoke pot. They’ll only get a traffic ticket! But the dealers and other lowlifes will still get criminal sentences for selling.” It removes the Rob Portmans of the world from the protest pool, who need laws to adversely affect them and their families to take action.

          There’s just such a ridiculous disparity between Dealer and User in public perception. I suppose the strip club owner could be seen as worse as the strip club patron. On the other hand, maybe he’s just trying to make a buck, rather than engage in the vice itself, even though he’s enabling.

      2. No MA or NJ or NH or CT plate = no pulled over in VT.

        NY or VT plate and you get a pass.

        The VT AG is also getting ready to stop police use of tasers.

        No tasers, no pot busts – I guess it will be a lot harder in the future to recruit a-holes to be cops in Vermont.

        1. All is not lost for LEOs in VT, I’m sure that puppycide is still legal.

          3 officers arrive at random residence.

          Officer 1: Maam, we got a call that there was a disturbance at this address.

          Woman at door: Umm, there is nothing going on here, officer, maybe you have the wro…

          Ruffie: woof woof, woof

          Officer 2: Maam, secure your dog now!

          Officer 3: Freeze, don’t move!

          Officer 2: BANG BANG BANG, BANG BANG BANG!

          Officer 1: Good job officer 2, he was coming right at us!

        2. I’ve got MA plates now and still have no problem.

          Of course, that’s mostly because there are basically no cops in Vermont outside of Burlington. It’s hard to get pulled over when the closest cop is 20 miles away.

          1. I live in a small Vermont town on the Canadian border. (In fact I own 1700 feet of the border.) The law enforcement presence here is huge. In addition to 50-75 border patrol agents we’ve got county sheriffs, state police, and off-duty police from other towns patrolling the roads under some federal program.

            If there are no cops in Vermont outside of Burlington it’s because they’re all here.

            1. NEK?

              1. Nope, Richford, VT is adjacent to the NEK town of Jay.

                1. I was gonna ski Jay this past winter, then it turned 65 and rainy the week I was there and was lucky to get two so-so days in Stowe before the warmup.

                  2014, though, I swear!

                  1. I used to go the Jay Peak once a decade. Now with all the new amenities I go there a few times a year. It’s become the place for company parties and meetings. Last time a friend and I hiked up the mountain and rode the tram down.

            2. I grew up on the other side of the mountain from you.

  3. Vermont’s marijuana decriminalization bills

    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.

    If I can be stopped and punished for doing something, it is not “decriminalized.” By using the term “decriminalized” you are obscuring what is happening. Drinking a coke (outside NYC) is not a criminal act, smoking dope is, even in VT.

    1. Look up the difference between civil and criminal.

      1. Sarc,

        I am well aware of the difference. What I am saying is that when you can still be punished by the state, it is not “decriminalized;” no matter what term you wish to use. It is simply “less criminal,” or the punishment is less severe.

        1. Yeah, but you don’t get a criminal record along with your fine. I would say that is the biggest difference.

          1. I agree that this is great; and I applaud what they did. But I do not think it is decriminalization. See NP’s 11:23 comment concerning Portugal as to what decrim actually is.

            I do hope that more states do the same as VT.

            1. You are arguing that an accepted definition of a word is not the definition of that word.

              The use of the word decriminalization is wholly appropriate as it’s being applied to the action of the Vermont Legislature.

          2. YAYY!! THEY WILL ONLY STEAL THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY FROM YOU EACH TIME!! FREEDOM!!!!

    2. It’s a pretty big difference for the person being punished.

    3. With regard to pacifying the peasants, I think you’re right. When people hear “decriminalized”, they think “legalized”, even though that isn’t actually the case. The only real significance in the difference, besides the record, is that “crimes” supposedly carry a component of morality, whereas “infractions” are more government tinkering with secondary and indirect actions.

  4. A step in the right direction and much better than the status quo, but:

    [The bill] 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 would 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.

    .. sounds like pseudo or only partial decriminalization to me. For several the countries that have implemented actual across the board decriminalization, none institute jail time for possession or use. Portugal does not even have any fines, nor compulsory treatment (and despite that, the usage still dropped)

  5. SAM

    Statist Asshole Morons?

  6. Phish still sucks, though, right?

    1. Now if I could only find that tee shirt with the Phish logo on it, only it spelled ‘Phart.’

        1. Close, but no rainbow. Must be rainbow colored like the logo.

            1. Nope. Already found that in my search before posting my comment.

              Just the logo spelling Phart, in rainbow, and I’ll decide what color I want the shirt to be after you post a link so I can say you got it wrong.

              1. There is a reason everyone lets their dogs shit in your yard.

                1. They think you live here?

                  1. Why would your neighbors think I live there? Have fat guys been beating on your windows, screaming that they have been kidnapped?

                    Do any of your neighbors enjoy food from McDonald’s?

    2. I dunno man, this video is both beautiful and possibly libertarian.

      1. The black and white Vespa at the bottom of this page looks pretty sweet, too:

        http://www.hippieshop.com/cgi-…..phishvespa

        …all it needs is for someone to take that Phish logo off the side and replace it with…ANYTHING!

        1. Must I remind you that Vermont’s Gun Laws are the best in the USA?

          Now you retract your calumny and aspersions this instant!

          1. Vermont gun laws are a model for other states to follow.

            WA is pretty good – no permit for open carry and SHALL ISSUE for concealed, but VT’s *is* better w/no permit required whatsoever.

            1. Yeah, but Phish still sucks, though, right?

  7. Would it be considered actionable harassment if I wrote a computer program to call Project SAM’s 800 number and play http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvpchmeL528 over and over the day Shumlin signs this?

  8. All I know is that the border coming into VT from QC is a tad to strict for my taste. They now ask I turn off my ignition and speak in very scary tones. I went to run a marathon and it was like I was coming in from Dagestan. The NY border seems a little less tight. I don’t know if it’s just depends on the agent you get. Bah. I get the security issue but still…bah.

    In a state where 25% of its population claims French-Canadian ancestry. Shouldn’t they at least give us a lollipop or something?

    Not that I’m French-Canadian demanding special treatment or anything.

    1. In a state where 25% of its population claims French-Canadian ancestry. Shouldn’t they at least give us a lollipop or something?

      Shouldn’t they surrender when you pull up to the checkpoint?

    2. Only time I got shaken down at a border was the QC – NY border.

      1. Last time I got shaken down by Border Patrol was on I-95 just outside Bangor.

    3. The crossings between US/Canada are fascinating.

      A few years ago, I watched web documentaries that showed certain US-Canadian borders (maybe one in Minn.?) that operated without border-agents, just a sign-in/sign-out sheet and “the honor system.”

      I’m sure those same crossings now involve a full body cavity search (which is only fun if you’re really in the mood).

      1. Not at all. There are still border crossings that operate on the honor system. There is one in eastern WA with a self-service sign-in/out Kiosk for example

  9. ‘too.’

  10. Is paraphernalia still illegal? Pay a fine for the pot but get a year in jail because you kept it in a sandwich bag?

  11. former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (R-RI)

    Huh? Nobody noticed this?

    1. What difference, at this point, does it make?

  12. We shouldn’t call that “decriminailzation”. Decriminailzation should mean that the police pays no special attention to something. Even more free than legalization. Treating something like driving 50 in a 35 MPH zone isn’t decriminailzation .

    1. We’re arguing over semantics. Decrim means that it is… wait for it… no longer a crim offense, but has been moved to a civil infraction.

      Decrim has been used this way (terminology) for decades, and has described what has been done in most states with traffic offenses (most of them) … moved from criminal court to a civil traffic court.

  13. And you people wonder why I like skiing in VT so much. Now when I get baked on the slopes, it’ll be legal(ish)!

    1. What do you mean, “you people”?

      1. It won’t be “legal”. They aren’t (unfortunately) legalizing. They are decrim’ing. It will still be a civil infraction and still expose you to civil liability – a fine and confiscation.

        I wish they went the route WA and CO have gone … and legalized, but it’s still better than having MJ be criminal, as it was

  14. What the Vermont Legislature did is literally a dictionary picture example of the accepted definition of the word decriminalize.

    http://dictionary.reference.co…..riminalize

    de?crim?i?nal?ize [dee-krim-uh-nl-ahyz]
    verb (used with object), de?crim?i?nal?ized, de?crim?i?nal?iz?ing.
    to eliminate criminal penalties for or remove legal restrictions against: to decriminalize marijuana.

    ? vb
    ( tr ) to remove (an action) from the legal category of criminal offence: to decriminalize the possession of marijuana

  15. Not everything but a start.

  16. Decrim is “ok”… a lot of states have gone that route, at least as an option, but legalization a la WA and CO is… better.

    Legalize, tax, and regulate. That’s the ticket.

    Decrim makes MJ cases “easier” in that the burden of proof becomes a mere preponderance of evidence (like a traffic ticket) and in such cases, rules of evidence are much more relaxed (like hearsay – the ticket itself is admissible. In WA, where traffic is decrim, ofc’s almost never testify in traffic court. The ticket is the testimony, so to speak. An ofc. might testify literally in less than 1 out of 100 traffic tickets, on average… if that).

    Decrim is thus much cheaper for the state (no expensive crim trials) and most people will just pay the ticket.

    Vermont, I’m asking you … as liberal as you are (Bernie Sanders anyone), why not just have some fucking sack and LEGALIZE IT?!?!?!?!

    1. Vermont, I’m asking you … as liberal as you are (Bernie Sanders anyone), why not just have some fucking sack and LEGALIZE IT?!?!?!?!

      I have a theory. They don’t want the tourist influx since these tourists might plausibly be categorized as “undesirable.”

      So I’m thinking

      (1) People are thinking about property values / NIMBYism and
      (2) If you can generate extra revenue w/o granting extra right –and you still get to put pressure on unpopular groups (hippies and outsiders) — isn’t that the best of all worlds?

      Besides, who wants additional Federal Scrutiny? They could retract the tit!

  17. “Phish still sucks, though, right?”

    When I went to police academy in MA, it was a running joke that a fish sticker meant PC to search for MJ.

    To quote one instructor “is it constitutional? probably not. Is it good police work? You bet your ass!”. And he was only half-joking.

    Phish is a bit too self indulgent wanky for me, but for those who would be following the Dead around, except for the fact that Jerry’s dead man, I guess it’s the next best thing.

  18. Arrest of the day… homeowners get all stabby with an intruder.

    Homeowners: 1
    Intruder: Zero

    People around here don’t mess around with burglars and home invaders. Gun not handy? A knife will suffice.

    Exactly ZERO chance of the homeowners being charged with anything. WE respect the right to self-defense round these parts.

    http://www.komonews.com/news/l…..87171.html

  19. I wonder how the Bill addresses the situation of the people sitting in jail right now for possession of less than an ounce; for that matter, it would be interesting to find out how many people really are sitting behind bars right now for this offense (I’d wager not many other than parole violators).

  20. Someone tell Rand Paul, he’ll set these damn hippy Vermonters straight. After all, freedom doesn’t mean you can just run around naked smoking pot. Freedom only means you got to jail for 20 years instead of life. That’s what responsible “constitutional conservatives” believe

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