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Vermont lawmakers vote to decriminalize marijuana

State lawmakers gave final approval on May 13 to a measure that will decriminalize possession of limited amounts of marijuana in Vermont.

The bill is headed to Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is expected to sign it into law in coming weeks and make Vermont the 17th state in the nation to decriminalize or legalize marijuana.
“We applaud the Vermont Legislature for adopting this much-needed legislation and setting an example for other states in the region and around the country,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The exceptionally broad support demonstrated for this measure reflects the progress our nation is making toward adopting a new and more sensible approach to marijuana policy."

He added, "The days of criminalizing people simply for using a substance less harmful than alcohol are coming to an end."

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Christopher Pearson of Burlington with a tripartisan group of 38 co-sponsors, will remove criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket.

Those under age 21 would be required to undergo substance abuse screening.

Under current state law, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail for a first offense and up to two years in jail for a subsequent offense.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell and Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn testified in favor of the bill, and nearly two-thirds of Vermont voters support such a proposal, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in February 2012.

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