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.
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:49 PM EST2014-03-09 02:49:49 GMT
The Burlington Yoga Conference began Saturday at UVM's Davis Center. The event gives participants a chance to connect the mind body and soul through workshops they may not have access to on a daily basis.More >>
The Burlington Yoga Conference began 6 years ago and has become a staple in the community.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:29 PM EST2014-03-09 02:29:17 GMT
A warning for pet owners in our region. Coyotes are on the prowl. A biologist in New Hampshire says he has received more than 10 calls recently, in the Keene, New Hampshire area, for a deer that was takenMore >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:21 PM EST2014-03-09 02:21:44 GMT
As spring approaches, many Vermont homeowners prepare to work on their houses - so they head to the Burlington Home Show. And many Vermont small business owners - with their products and services on displayMore >>
Many business owners at the Burlington Home Show say the new health care system in Vermont is helpful, but some say it's causing a real headache.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 8:07 PM EST2014-03-09 01:07:08 GMT
A rally at the State House in Montpelier Saturday. A passionate group of dozens of women, and men, assembled in front of the State House Saturday for the Women's March for Dignity. They were demandingMore >>
Women's March for Dignity say they are demanding lawmakers support paid sick day policies for all workers.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:21 AM EST2014-03-08 15:21:27 GMT
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries. They were injured while fighting a at the Bennett Farm on Route 15 on the Johnson-Cambridge town line. The fire started in a shed around 7:30 FridayMore >>
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:42 GMT
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury. They immediately took to Facebook after hearing about this fire and started planning to collectMore >>
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:05 GMT
Reporter: "What are some of the most common burn injuries that we see with kids coming into the hospital?" Jim Esdon, Dartmouth Hitchcock Injury Prevention Center: "This time of year, the glass frontedMore >>
We've had another cold week that's left homeowners cranking the heat. But what does that mean for kids' safety?More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:19 AM EST2014-03-08 15:19:21 GMT
Armed with just two L rods, 87-year-old John Wayne Blassingame starts looking for water by asking yes or no questions. "Does it go past 20 feet, does it go past 30 feet, yah," he says. The rods crossingMore >>
A national organization based in Danville says it is providing resources to people in desperate need to find water.More >>