Last Update: March 20, 2014
Vermont’s decriminalization law in effect; Senate passes bill to expand medical marijuana program
Vermont became the latest state to decriminalize marijuana possession in 2013. On June 6, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed H. 200, which eliminated the state’s criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and replaced them with civil fines. This was a major victory for MPP and its legislative allies in Montpelier, who worked hard to build support for this sensible reform.
MPP Legislative Analyst Matt Simon and Gov. Peter Shumlin at the signing ceremony for H. 200.
Click here for details on how H. 200 changed Vermont’s penalty structure.
Leading law enforcement officials, including Attorney General William Sorrell and Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, supported the bill. H. 200 passed the House April 16, 2013 in a 92-49 vote and was approved 24-6 by the Senate May 7. The House gave its final approval to the Senate’s amendments May 13. The new law went into effect July 1, 2013.
As a result of this reform, Vermont police and prosecutors waste less time and taxpayer money on enforcing laws against marijuana possession. Individuals caught possessing an ounce or less of marijuana in the Green Mountain State are now fined but do not receive a criminal conviction. Those under 21 are now generally sent to diversion.
Over 1,000 patients now registered; Senate passes bill to expand program!
In 2011, with support from Gov. Shumlin, patients, and advocates, MPP helped convince the legislature to pass S. 17, a bill authorizing up to four medical marijuana dispensaries. As a result, today patients in Vermont finally have a safe, legal way to obtain their medicine without having to grow their own. Today, all four dispensaries are open and serving patients, and over 1,000 patients are now registered for Vermont’s program.
This year, MPP is working with the legislature to expand Vermont’s law so more patients can benefit from safe, legal access. S. 247, sponsored by Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), would increase the number of dispensaries to six, eliminate the cap of 1,000 patients who are currently allowed to access dispensaries, allow naturopaths to certify patients, and allow dispensaries to deliver marijuana to patients. S. 247 passed the Senate March 11 in a nearly unanimous voice vote.
Next this bill moves to the House. If you live in Vermont, click here to contact your representative and ask for his or her support.
To view the rules for the Vermont Marijuana Program (VMP), please visit the Vermont Criminal Information Center website.
Legislators and Gov. Shumlin support legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana
The next step for Vermont policymakers will be to consider legal alternatives to the illicit market for marijuana. The attorney general has publicly argued in favor of decriminalizing plants, and many legislators have openly made the case for legalization and regulation. In September 2013, Gov. Shumlin announced that he supports the idea of taxing and regulating marijuana in Vermont. Additionally, Commissioner of Public Safety Keith Flynn has said he supports taking “a hard look” at the idea, and Health Commissioner Harry Chen has said he is “open” to the issue.
In the House, Rep. Susan Hatch Davis and four co-sponsors introduced H. 499 in 2013, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. It would take marijuana sales off the criminal market and regulate and tax them through the Department of Liquor Control. In addition to creating jobs and revenue from a legal marijuana industry, H. 499 would allow the cultivation of industrial hemp, bringing more agricultural jobs to the state.
A similar bill, S. 306, was introduced by Sen. David Zuckerman in January 2014. However, Zuckerman, Shumlin, and other champions have made it clear that such legislation is unlikely to earn a spot on the legislative agenda until 2015.
MPP will continue working with legislators to explore policy options that will work best for Vermont when the prohibition of marijuana is repealed. Please send a message to your legislators asking them to end Vermont’s failed and wasteful war on marijuana.
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