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, May 25 2013 10:30 PM EDT2013-05-26 02:30:05 GMT
A burglary at the Dorset Union Store. Police say the Church Street business, in Dorset, was broken into sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning. At this time, we do not know what was stolen.More >>
Police search for a suspect that left his blood at the crime scene.More >>
Saturday, May 25 2013 8:13 PM EDT2013-05-26 00:13:06 GMT
Governor Peter Shumlin is urging Vermonters to be vigilant as the rain continues to come down. Especially, he says, with the possibility of wet snow that could bring down trees and damage property. ShumlinMore >>
Governor Peter Shumlin is urging Vermonters to stay safe as the rain continues to come down.More >>
Saturday, May 25 2013 8:09 PM EDT2013-05-26 00:09:12 GMT
First responders scrambled to drain a private dam Saturday afternoon to avert major damage. Officials say the dam on Poker Hill road in Underhill nearly burst Saturday afternoon. Members of the localMore >>
First responders scrambled to drain a private dam Saturday afternoon to avert major damage.More >>
Saturday, May 25 2013 7:58 PM EDT2013-05-25 23:58:16 GMT
Rain-battered state roads in the hardest hit areas of Underhill and Jericho are re-open to traffic, but that doesn't mean the work is done for crews. "It's been a very challenging two-day event here soMore >>
As the rain continues to pour down, response crews are not getting a break.More >>
Saturday, May 25 2013 7:51 PM EDT2013-05-25 23:51:37 GMT
Driving along Route 15, you may notice some roads have reopened as crews guide drivers cautiously around the cracked gravel. But driving down roads like North Underhill Station, you won't get very far. ConnerMore >>
While needed repairs are being made, more work is ahead.More >>
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 7:20 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 >>