Tuesday, Progressive Representative Chris Pearson of Burlington and Republican Representative Patti Komline of Dorset introduced House Bill 200. The tripartisan measure with 39 sponsors would transform small-scale marijuana crimes from felonies into civil offenses, meaning those caught with less than two ounces of pot would face a $100 ticket, not a record.
"It'll still be taken pretty seriously for young people. For anyone older than 21, it'll be a minor penalty," Komline said.
Beginning with Oregon in 1973, 14 states have adopted looser pot penalties. But sponsors say provisions decriminalizing small personal grows-- if the language doesn't go up in smoke during the amendment process-- would be unique to Vermont. Pulling from the state's medical marijuana bill, H.200 calls for decriminalizing up to two mature and seven immature plants.
"It's not somebody who's setting up a distribution operation, and that was exactly the point," Pearson said.
Republican Representative Kurt Wright is the only Chittenden County legislator in the House not backing the measure. Wright says after talking with Burlington Police Chief Mike Schirling, he's concerned that erasing the possibility of criminal charges could hamper investigations that ultimately uncover harder drugs.
"I don't want to tie the police's hands in any way by this, which I think it potentially could," Wright said.
Wright says reform is necessary, and envisions a separate ticket system that leaves criminal penalties on the table.
Supporters say the measure would level the playing field in Vermont, where many areas already have some form of decriminalization.
Vt. House Speaker Shap Smith says he won't block the measure from coming to the floor for debate this session, allowing a full decriminalization debate in the Green Mountain State.
A separate proposal in the Senate also calls for decriminalization, while another calls for full legalization.
Smith says the House bill could get rolled into a larger drug measure, dealing with a range of issues from pot to opiate addiction.
Friday, May 24 2013 11:30 PM EDT2013-05-25 03:30:10 GMT
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.State Police say Route 5 in Derby Line is closed near Caswell Avenue because of a hole in the pavement just a couple of feet over the lineMore >>
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:17 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:17:06 GMT
It was a storm that left residents with more damage than they could have ever imagined. "The basement has about 13 inches of water," said Bob Genter of Underhill. And preparing for the aftermath of theMore >>
Flash floods left destruction across the region. And the rain is not over. Heavy downpours left some people trapped in their neighborhoods as emergency crews work to try to clear the roads.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:54 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:54:18 GMT
Vermont State Police say the following roads have been closed due to flooding:UNDERHILL: VERMONT ROUTE 15, CILLEYHILL POKER HILL ROAD NORTH UNDERHILL STATION ROAD PAIGE ROAD DAUDLIN ROAD BROWNS TRACE,More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:20 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:20:50 GMT
As the cleanup gets underway from Thursday night's flash flooding, the focus shifts now to the broader impacts of rising rivers from around the region. All the rain so far and more to come is running intoMore >>
All the rain is running into larger streams and rivers that are moving rapidly toward flood stage.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 12:44 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:44:50 GMT
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend. So far, the impact has mainly been seen in roadMore >>
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 9:51 AM EDT2013-05-24 13:51:55 GMT
Over the river and throught the woods isn't just the way to grandma's house, its the way a lot of people are having to travel just to make it to their front door. Dormant brooks and sleepy streams turnedMore >>
Strong rains Thursday flooded roads in Essex.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:25 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:25:14 GMT
A rainy Vermont City Marathon forecast isn't slowing down runners or organizers. "Well, we're going to make some liquid sunshine out of all of this rain. That's the only choice we've got right now," saidMore >>
The countdown is on to this weekend's Vermont City Marathon and final preps are underway. Those finishing touches are coming in the rain, but organizers say the weather isn't slowing things down.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:35 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:35:15 GMT
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex. The parade is held annually on the Saturday morning of the holiday weekend. But after all the rain and flooding damageMore >>
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex.More >>