March 29, 2016

Judiciary committee changes marijuana legalization fines

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Montpelier (Jan. 27) – Senator Alice Nitka stood firm about leaving the open container fine of marijuana legalization bill S. 241 at $25.  The Senate Committee on Judiciary spent the day looking closely at the wording of the bill to make sure everyone agreed on it.  One senator suggested the fine for an open container in a car should be $100, not $25.  “Someone’s giving someone a ride, they don’t know what they’ve got” said Senator Nitka, arguing to keep the fine at $25 for the driver of the car.

Another change the Senate Judiciary made to S. 241 was increasing the fine for the operator of the car from $25 to $50 if they are the owner of the marijuana.  The committee was trying to make sure the appropriate fines were stated in the bill to ensure traffic safety.

When asked how he felt about people driving under the influence of cannabis, Dr. Rob Williams of the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative, answered with a firm “don’t do it”.  “The penalty should be the same for alcohol or drug impaired driving; stiff” said Williams.  Although being pro-cannabis, Williams is open about the fact that it isn’t a harmless practice and that people must use cannabis wisely.

The Senate Committee also discussed how statistics on marijuana usage and traffic accidents could not be the most reliable. Right now if a person is in the emergency room and admits to having used marijuana their visit gets added to marijuana related accidents regardless of if that is the true reason for their visit.  This could be something for lawmakers to address in the future to create more accurate statistics on if marijuana increases accidents.

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