Democrat Gov. (and NORML PAC recipient) Peter Shumlin today signed legislation into law eliminating criminal penalties for adults who possess personal use amounts of cannabis and/or hashish.
“This change just makes common sense,” said Shumlin. “Our limited resources should be focused on reducing abuse and addiction of opiates like heroin and meth rather than cracking down on people for having very small amounts of marijuana.”
The new law amends penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia by a person 21 years of age or older from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $ 500 fine) to a civil fine only — no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record. The law also decriminalizes possession of less than 5 grams of hashish.
Vermont’s proposed law is similar to existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island, where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.
Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense.
Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana. (The laws in Colorado and Washington were enacted via voter initiative while Alaska’s legal protections were imposed by the state Supreme Court.)
Vermont’s new law takes effect on July 1, 2013.