April 8, 2016

Marijuana Legalization Bill Raises Concerns over Current Decriminalization Law

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Montpelier (Apr 6) – “If I were to write these laws from scratch, would I write them the way the are? Definitely not,” Michelle Childs, from the Office of Legislative Council, said before the House Judiciary Committee. While discussing the marijuana legalization bill, S.241, the committee reviewed the current decriminalization laws in place – and some representatives became very concerned. In 2013, the Vermont legislature decriminalized possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. This means that possession of marijuana of an ounce or less would result in a civil – not criminal – charge.

“If you have two plants you qualify as a two year misdemeanor, but if you harvest those plants you’re subject to a five year felony,” Representative Willem Jewett-D expressed his concerns to the committee. The discussion quickly changed from the legalization bill to the flaws and discrepancies that are present under current law. For example, if a person possessed an ounce of marijuana, they would be subject to civil penalty. If they then transferred a half an ounce of their possession to a friend, without charge, they would be subject to a five year felony.

Rep Jewett-D suggested that the committee create an entirely different bill to reform the current flaws, and didn’t express interest in S.241. “If we keep things they way they are, we aren’t doing our jobs,” the representative argued. Representative Vicki Strong-R dismissed the conversation of marijuana at all, “I think this is a waste of time. We have so many other priorities.”

It’s unclear which way the committee will go on the legalization bill or the current decriminalization law.

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