Making marijuana quasi-legal is now an issue in the race for Attorney General.
Wednesday, Chittenden County Prosecutor and candidate for State Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced his plan to tackle Vermont's growing crime problem.
With ballooning Corrections costs, the Democrat says the state needs to focus more on rehabilitation for non-violent offenders rather than conviction and incarceration.
"It's time that we get smart on crime," said Donovan, "we've demonstrated that we can be tough when we need to be, but we need to be smart because we're wasting a lot of taxpayer dollars on the way we deal with criminal justice."
In part, he suggests decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, instead issuing tickets with fines similar to traffic citations. Many of the plan's finer details still need to be ironed out.
Campaign foe and current Attorney General Bill Sorrell said he's not against such a proposal, but doubts the state would see substantial benefits. Sorrell says small-time marijuana enforcement is not currently much of a priority in the state.
"The simple decriminalization of marijuana is not going to all of a sudden free up all kinds of law enforcement time," he said.
Donovan says the move would prevent minor offenses from following residents their entire lives and exclusion from federal programs. He adds that keeping offenders out of prison, instead providing treatment, would decrease the chances of future offenses.
"I think it's important that the Attorney General lead on this issue and be a leader on the issues of criminal justice," he said.
Sorrell says many minor offenders already receive second and third chances. He added that parole violations are generally the only time simple possesion will land a Vermonter in prison.
Sorrell said he believes other issues should take higher priority, but points out he's not a legislator. He said he doesn't think it's his place to advocate for a change, but is happy to offer an opinion.
"For whatever reason, the Vermont legislature has thus far not decriminalized marijuana, I'm sure it will be taken up in January and if I was a legislator I would vote for it," he said.
Republican candidate Jack McMullen says he'll need to do more research before coming out with a firm stance. He says the idea sounds promising, though he's not sure it addresses the real problem.
Governor Peter Shumlin and Senate leadership openly support decriminalization. But, if House Speaker Shap Smith doesn't change his mind on the issue, the potential law change may go up in smoke again, as it did this March.
No matter what the state does, a law change at the Federal level doesn't appear to be forthcoming.
Saturday, December 7 2013 9:24 AM EST2013-12-07 14:24:20 GMT
"St. Johnsbury has enough to offer that you don't get too bored," says resident Riley Barter. She has a new appreciation for the place she calls home. "I guess I never realized how unique St. JohnsburyMore >>
Hundreds of St. Johnsbury Academy seniors take risks with their Capstone projects.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 9:12 AM EST2013-12-07 14:12:35 GMT
In Burlington's Old North End there are still hints of what used to be -- a bustling Little Jerusalem years go. But one symbol of the area's past is not so obvious."It's priceless, it literally is oneMore >>
In Burlington's Old North End there are still hints of what used to be -- a bustling Little Jerusalem years go. But one symbol of the area's past is not so obvious.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 8:32 AM EST2013-12-07 13:32:27 GMT
If you're lucky, you may have seen a snowy owl in Vermont. Researchers say the birds are traveling even farther south than usual -- some even as far south as North Carolina. We spotted one Friday afternoonMore >>
Researchers say snowy owls are traveling even farther south than usual, and that means more sightings here in Vermont.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 7:51 AM EST2013-12-07 12:51:22 GMT
South Burlington police say a shoplifter tried to hide her drugs by swallowing them at the police station. Police arrested Diana Matt Friday night at the University Mall Kohl's for allegedly stealingMore >>
South Burlington police say a shoplifter tried to hide her drugs by swallowing them at the police station.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 7:49 AM EST2013-12-07 12:49:56 GMT
Police in Brattleboro are looking for the driver of a car that hit and killed a pedestrian Friday night. Police say, just after 7 p.m., the car struck the man at Western Avenue and Union Street and thenMore >>
Police in Brattleboro are looking for the driver of a car that hit and killed a pedestrian Friday night.More >>
Friday, December 6 2013 11:16 PM EST2013-12-07 04:16:55 GMT
A Connecticut man is charged with DUI after police say he admitted to overdosing on prescribed Ritalin when he was pulled over. The incident happened on Route 105 in Berkshire late Friday afternoon. AuthoritiesMore >>
A Connecticut man is charged with DUI after police say he admitted to overdosing on prescribed Ritalin when he was pulled over.More >>
Friday, December 6 2013 10:03 PM EST2013-12-07 03:03:22 GMT
In Dorset, a car crashed into a bank and there was no drive-through lane.The car jumped the curb in front of the Berkshire Bank Friday morning, taking out a railing and getting hung up on the front steps.More >>
In Dorset, a car crashed into a bank -- and there was no drive-through lane. More >>
Friday, December 6 2013 10:01 PM EST2013-12-07 03:01:17 GMT
The longtime bookkeeper at Cold Hollow Cider Mill is expected to plead guilty to embezzling from the business and a local youth hockey program.Cold Hollow in Waterbury is one of Vermont's top tourist attractions.More >>
The longtime bookkeeper at Cold Hollow Cider Mill is expected to plead guilty to embezzling from the business and a local youth hockey program.More >>