A Vermont marijuana reform law was signed by Governor Peter Shumlin (D) on Thursday. The new bill decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. As a result, Vermont is the 17th state to take action to decriminalize the herbal drug — including all of its surrounding states except New Hampshire.
House Bill 200 removes the criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. However, there are still civil penalties — similar to minor summary offenses like traffic tickets.
In addition, people under age 21 caught with any amount of marijuana, even an ounce or less, will be required to undergo substance abuse screening — just as they would if they were caught with alcohol.
In a perhaps more controversial move, the law will also decriminalize possession of less than 5 grams of hashish, which is a stronger drug made from the same plant.
In any case, be aware that the new Vermont marijuana law is not the same as outright legalization. Both Washington state and Colorado passed well-publicized laws last year allowing adults to use recreational marijuana.
An analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project Matt Simon said that he applauded the Vermont governor’s move: “Decriminalizing marijuana possession will allow law enforcement officials to spend more time and attention addressing serious crimes and prevent people from being branded as criminals just for using a substance that most Americans agree should be legal.”
Gov. Shumlin himself commented that the new law made common sense. “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 use of medical marijuana under a doctor’s supervision was signed into Vermont law in 2004.
The new Vermont marijuana law goes into effect July 1.
[marijuana field photo by stdesign via Shutterstock]