It’s Official: Vermont Becomes 17th State To End Criminal Sanctions For Marijuana Possession Offenses

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.

16 thoughts

  1. …in the right direction but:
    1) still implies that there is something wrong with adults smoking marijuana

    2) does nothing to regulate marijuana; can still be provided by mexican drug cartel machete-wielding beheading fiends; still easier for a high school student to get than 50-something adult and there’s something wrong with that picture

    [Paul Armentano responds: Your points are correct. In addition, decriminalization still improperly classifies cannabis as contraband — meaning that law enforcement are obligated, by force if necessary, to seize it from the consumer. All of these issues speak as to why we ultimately need and NORML lobbies for legalization and regulation.]

  2. Any chance of Dutch style coffeeshops opening up there? Vermont is a great place to vacation, and there’s Ben & Jerry’s, too. I thought the Free State Project was going on up that away. Bring your own. Dealer a customer not behind the counter, not an employee of the establishment, just like Nol van Schaik wrote in The Dutch Experience, like in the beginning in the Mellow Yellow. It’s very convenient for people within driving vacation distance from both Canada and the U.S. Rake in tourist dollars.

  3. Oh yeah,It’s OK for you to have it now but we still want our money for catching you with it. Land of the free my ass!

  4. Hooray, this is fantastic! Way to go, Vermont! And special congratulations to NORML for such an elegantly supported piece of legislation. You guys are really making a difference, and the law reform is really coming fast and furious now.

  5. Wow, really good news. And the language mentioning that less than an ounce of marijuana is a “very small amount” is heart warming.

  6. I would be happy if they could include a law against pointing a gun at someone for possessing marijuana. Life is one time and marijuana is never justification for robbing someone of their life.

  7. That’s good news! It’s always good news to learn that more states are inching toward ending the expensive and destructive prohibitionist policies; in spite of the will of the Feds!

    I hope to live long enough to see America once again become the Land of the Free; but that’s not likely. It seems that Big Brother is intruding more and more into private lives via their spying activities (e.g. emails and phone conversations…). Where will it end?

  8. This is awesome. So glad we don’t have to worry about trouble over a little weed anymore. Great new law. Now if they would really decriminalize it and take away the fine also…. How are you gonna say its OK to have but still give me a fine if you catch me with it? Whatever let’s blaze…

  9. In response to Fireweed;
    1. I completely agree, it is kind of BS that they still make it seem like it’s wrong. I’m from VT and there are a surprising amount of people who drink heavily on a daily basis, yet alcohol has it’s acceptable reputation.
    2. If you smoke brick weed in VT you are either in high school or you’re old and get it from high school kids. How else are you supposed to eat a Vermonster Sundae from Ben and Jerry’s before it melts in the summer time!

  10. Revolution will take place if government control doesn’t lower prices! A government monopoly will become a very large government conspiracy against the will of the people!When will the fire sales & price wars begin?
    So if this thing turns out to be a big ball of government greed, I will predict a New American Revolution will be near!

  11. It’s about time. However, too many states are still putting people in prison under our state and federal mandatory sentencing schemes for possession, sale, and trafficking in marijuana. At least as far as Florida is concerned, trafficking is based solely on weight, not whether you intend to sell or distribute the substance. It’s a good start, but many other states need to follow Vermont’s lead.

  12. The “Green” state is now implementing sane, good laws. Some nice pancakes with Vermont maple syrup and coffee are good things after a fatty of nugs. Ben and Jerry’s and scenic mountain drives in the green mountains in summer is a must. Lake Champlain. I feel so good, I find myself asking, “what’s going on here” with the laws changing for the better? jk

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