Marijuana: Vermont to Consider Decriminalization, But Wants to Crack Down on Hard Drugs

The Vermont legislature will this year take up a bill to decriminalize the personal possession, growing of two plants, and small-scale sales of marijuana. At the same time, the legislature will consider a proposal to lower the threshold for what constitutes "trafficking amounts" for hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Both proposals will be discussed at public hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 23.

The legislative moves come after months of discussion about the cost and efficacy of Vermont drug policy and sometimes heated debate over marijuana decriminalization. The decrim debate really heated up last fall when Republican Gov. James Douglas ordered that marijuana cases be taken away from the office of Windsor County prosecutor Robert Sand, who approved court diversion for a local attorney caught growing 30 pot plants. Douglas accused Sand of having a blanket diversion policy, but backed off the state control over prosecutions after Sand made it clear he had no such blanket policy, and after it was found that an Orange County prosecutor had done a similar deal for a man arrested with more than 100 plants.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin (D-Windham) said last month that drug law reform, including marijuana decriminalization, was one of his top priorities for the current session. That moved Gov. Douglas to say that he was open to decrim discussions, although he has not endorsed the idea.

The marijuana decrim bill, S-238, was introduced last year and reintroduced this year by Sen. Jeannette White (D-Windham). Under the bill, possession of up to four ounces or two plants and sale of less than four ounces would be a civil violation with a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine. Possession of more than four ounces or more than five plants would still be a crime punishable by up to five years in prison under the bill.

While White's decrim bill is a step in the right direction, the hard drug bill, S-250, to be offered by Sen. Richard Sears (D-Bennington), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is not. That bill would lower the threshold for criminal trafficking charges from 300 grams of cocaine to 150 and from seven grams of heroin to 3.5. People convicted of possessing drugs in such amounts would face up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to one million dollars.

Sears has also signaled that he thinks the four ounce decrim limit is too high. "Four ounces of marijuana is a felony," he told the Barre-Montepelier Times Argus. "I don't think we want to go there."

But Sears is open to discussion, he said. "I thought it was important to let the public weigh in before we started taking a close look at the proposals," he said. "This is a change in state law regarding drugs, and the public probably has some thoughts about this."

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Half right

De-criminalize use of all drugs. Treat drug abuse like alcohol abuse.

They have been cracking down

They have been cracking down on drugs for thirty years and the situation is worse now than ever. When are they going to learn? We cannot create morality with the rule of law! There has to be a better way! Why not try something different? But, really, I guess I know the answer to that...BIG MONEY for the drug warriors!!

Failure?

War on "drug users" has been a success. Jail/ prison construction boom.
Law enforcement gets more powers and money. Not to mention the
"treatment" industry! Psycological / pharmicutical industry! Face it in the
1980's the USA would have gone bankrupt if not for the War on "Drugs"
The War has prolonged the enevitable though...the USA will go bankrupt
at some point! The current war on "terrorism" seems to be replacing
the "drug war". Seems to me the USA economy is addicted to WAR for
it's survival. As far as people using "drugs"... as long as "pain" exists
"drug usesers" will exist!

ya right

the war on drugs costs billions of dollers a year to maintain between servallence, man hours, court precedings. and only nets a few hundred thousand. how many defendants went to jail over a joint and ended up as career criminals when they got out because they got hardened on the inside. second marijuana is not addictive you do not need a treatment facility unlike alchol or heroin. and on top of that we could eliminate all costs to the state if we ended the war on marijuana and the state sold it. how much do you think the state makes a year with ciggarettes? we could make that much with marijuana with none of the expences. i can see coke being illeagal as well as heroin. but no marijuana. alchohol affects depth perseption marijuana does not. alchohol insights violence marijuana relaxes the user and eliminates stress and pain. its all about sensorship and the goverment admiting they where wrong witch is something the will never do. they have been spewing propaganda in our face for over 30 years. and the funny thing is that there are fools out there who are to pig headed to take the time to understand and check out all the facts. and they just belive everything that is told to them. i belive in the decriminalization of marijuana would benifit not only the people but allso the state.

You are a moron

Please, people like you sound much more intelligent when you keep your ideas to yourself.

You should talk! People like

You should talk! People like you with your outdated ideals and your belief of the drug war propaganda keep this insane cycle of making harsher drug laws and building more prisons to house all the prisoners. Our economy is shot and just taking an objective and compassionate look at marijuana and its actual effects in the short and long term would open the general public to the fact that marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol. Alcohol is addicting, where marijuana is not, and the Australian government did a study that showed that driver's under the influence of marijuana actually performed better. It made them tend to underestimate their abilities and slow down and drive accordingly. They tried to supress the results because of the favorable light the study shed on marijuana! A reasonable policy of legal taxation would be a boon to our struggling economy. Let go of your outdated and fictional idea's of marijuana and embrace an herb that we humans have had a relationship with for thousands of years. Embrace the healing herb!

state laws same as federal laws = double billing taxpayers

Double Billing Taxpayers: there are so many federal laws making "marijuana" and "marihuana" use, sales, and cultivation all crimes,
and you can't find all of the federal laws unless you use both spellings,
which is how they conceal how many laws there are,
so that ANY state marijuana law is Double Billing the Taxpayer.
Cris Ericson http://makemarijuanalegal.com
Make Marijuana Legal

cannabis

same old same old, not one new/true thought. So, waht can I say. Vote for Ron Paul, the only voice worth its salt. All thus de-crim bull is just a screen from what we all know, cannabis is good for people in so many ways. The war is typical t psyco war fare on peace ful peoples.
We won you lost get over it move on.

legalize it

just legalize it

our health care and schools

I'm all for legal pot. i think its stupid to argue the point that we should legalize for the taxation purposes. I'm sick of people trying to grow government by taxing and regulating marijuana, they don't need any more money. i purpose take the money that is spent investigating, prosecuting and jailing marijuana offenders and put that into schools heath care and reindustrializing this country.  the industry and money pit that has become the judicial system is outrageous. the war on drugs will never die because it works so well for both sides. on one side the government loves the money and bragging rights that they are making it safe and drug free; and on the other are the big growing and trafficking operations because they know where there is risk there is profit. So secretly most traffickers are our biggest opposition, sounds funny to most but look at it without either side the other will fall. but if as regular every day people we can ban together and really make a change i say vote yes to the de-crim law and vote for people people who will do the same.

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