Vermont: Cannabis Decriminalization Measure Now Law

Legislation reducing marijuana possession penalties in Vermont became law today.

Under the new state law, penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia by a person 21 years of age or older have been amended from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly 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 five grams of hashish.

Vermont’s new 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.

11 thoughts

  1. Good grief!!! When will Tennessee and the rest of the Southeast come to their collective senses and see the benefit to farmers, farm workers and the citizenry in general to marijuana decriminalization. It’s a plant with miraculous powers. I believe in 10 yrs it will be hailed by medical and non-medical researchers alike as a miracle plant. Man has had a relationship with Cannibis which has spanned his entire evolutionary period as have many other animals on earth. Even Darwin would wonder why the government wants to screw with natural evolution.

  2. The bill appears to state: “Municipalities may impose higher penalties on the public use of marijuana.”

    What are the specific limitations on this. For example, what if someone over 21 is smoking a joint, while hiking in a state park? What kind of extra penalty may be imposed by the local government?

    Or if legally camping on state proeprty, someone over 21 smoking in a tent? Is that still considered “public”?

  3. @fumester – I hear ya. I’m also in Tennessee. Someone I know just settled a possession offence. A year of supervised probation with random drug testing – total probation fees $500-600, 25 hours of community service. Add in the bondsman, fines, court costs and lawyer fees and it’s over $3k. And now for the drumroll. It was for half a joint. No kidding.

  4. Decriminalization is, at least, a start…

    It is annoying how, with cases like these, where it is apparent that they F’ING SEE that it shouldn’t be criminalized at all, (nor ever should have been), but are so caught up in the historical mindlessness of its classification as arbitrarily that they can only muster the reasoning and strength to chip away at this injustice.

  5. I am never quite sure why North Carolina is listed as a “fine-only misdemeanor” state because that is not an accurate representation of the situation, as, in addition to the fine, one will also receive 6 months to 1 year of probation and mandatory drug counseling (A minimum of 15 hours).

    Between the fine, the counseling, lawyer fees and court costs one will have to pay ~$800 worth of expenses and serve up to one year of probation (Supervision is at the discretion of the judge). Not to mention that any possession charge beyond the first can result in even harsher penalties.

  6. I find this odd in two ways:

    1) Read the VT law, it’s available online. I’m sure smoking in a tent won’t draw attention, until the smoke escapes the tent and then obviously if the police were standing there, or some person with an acorn up their *** felt like it they could call it in and you’d be busted.

    It’s “decriminalized” but still not legal. It’s also obvious the cops will still be hustling dealers… so it’s basically a stay at home and enjoy yourself kind of law.

    2) When did Alaska join CO and WA??? NORML getting Freudian with us?

    Maine, it should be noted just lost by a small margin of votes to become the third state to legalize cannabis for adult use. Which is really a shame… it’s the Vacation State, after all. It’s on the east coast and, it would be a welcome boom to a year-round economy from residents and vacationers alike.

    There are bigger fish to fry, as they say and cannabis is not technically a fish, btw, it’s a plant.

    [Paul Armentano responds: Alaska law states that private possession of personal use amounts of cannabis in private is constitutionally protected activity; See Ravin v State, 1975.

  7. A step in the right direction. I need a favor from my fellow Vermonter’s. For the last two years my wife and I have been working with Rep.Jim Masland of Thetford to get PTSD added to our State’s Medical Cannabis law . To date,no go.Jim will again push for this come Jan. Please write your state reps. and demand Cannabis be allowed for us PTSD sufferers. As you all know, Maine just allowed for it’s use under their law. PLEASE HELP! Lives are truly at risk.

  8. So what is the fine in VT now? Over here in Oregon the fine is high enough to be punitive rather than something along the line of a parking ticket.

    [Paul Armentano responds: Possession under an ounce is now a civil citation punishable by a maximum $200 fine (first offense). Second offenses are punishable by a maximum fine of $300. Third and/or subsequent offenses are punishable by a maximum fine of $500.]

  9. After recently becoming aware of US patent # 6,630,507, I am thinking ALL the discussion is pretty much moot… The US government has been issued a patent for the beneficial medicinal uses of a plant that can land you in jail for mere possession, one that they have deemed a schedule 1 drug, which means it has absolutely no medicinal value what so ever. One side, federal officers trashing a dispensary… the other side, they have had clinical testing of the plant & the results were positive enough to warrant an exclusive patent.I thought “Reefer Madness” was as strange as it got… I was wrong…

  10. @Tony:
    Yes, rather hypocritical I’d say, but it gets worse. It is against federal law for any plant or drug classified under Schedule One to be used in research that would find or prove any medicinal or therapeutic value. If I am right about that and I’m fairly sure I am, then the feds broke their own law in the research that earned them the patent!

    @Paul Armentano:

    Oh yeah, forgot about Alaska’s 1975 decriminalization… actually though it was Oregon, but after reading NORML’s “News of the Week” that gets e-mailed to me, discovered that I think you might want to read your own news… Senate Bill 40 reduced penalties for possession of less than an ounce from $1000 to $650. Although that’s just a civil crime and not a misdemeanor, “Just an Observer” seems to be correct, that’s a pretty serious penalty!


    1) Go to and sign the petition to get this before the White House

    2) Please make this petition known to other groups, such as

    so we can FOCUS our energies and get this done. (I do not do facebook, so LEAP is, as of yet, unaware…)

    Please help us to compel the White House to react on this issue, (since proactive leadership isn’t forthcoming…).

    “Signatures needed by July 24, 2013 to reach goal of 100,000?

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