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Vermont decriminalization bills before committee today and tomorrow

Posted on April 04, 2013 by News Admin

 Two similar Vermont bills that would decriminalize possession of limited amounts of cannabis are up for discussion today and tomorrow in both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

House bill 200 would make possession of up to two ounces for people over 21 a civil offense, punishable by up to $100 in fines. The bill would also decriminalize cultivation of up to two mature marijuana plants and seven immature plants. Those under 21 would face penalties similar to underage alcohol offenses - including attending alcohol and drug safety awareness programs. Half of the fines collected would go to funding a state police Drug Task Force, the rest would go to drug awareness and safety programs in the state.

Senate bill 48 would decriminalize one ounce of cannabis and does not discuss cultivation of small amounts. Otherwise, the bill is the same in that it only applies to adults 21 and up, minors would face similar penalties and fines collected would go to the same groups. The senate bill also clarifies that getting caught five times or more with cannabis would increase the fine to $500 each time.

Both bills would also decriminalize paraphernalia possession, and getting popped for possession in either bill would not create a criminal history record, and the state won't keep any records of the violation.

While either bill would be a step in the right direction, we're hoping that the House bill is the one considered and not the watered-down version in the Senate. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, and Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan will testify in favor of both bills at the respective meetings.

A third marijuana-related bill, H. 499, which would legalize up to two ounces of herb and cultivation of up to three plants, is still alive in committee, though it hasn't moved since March 12. The bill would also create state-regulated marijuana shops and allow for an industrial hemp industry in Vermont.

Currently, possession of less than two ounces is a misdemeanor charge, with up to six months and $500 in fines. Paraphernalia possession is a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.


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