House Bill Would Decriminalize Possession Of Small Amounts Of Marijuana

Pot

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, left, asks Vermont State Police Lieutenant Matthew Birmingham to display for lawmakers the difference between one and two ounces of marijuana.

By Kirk Carapezza

For the first time this legislative session, the subject of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana has been before a key Vermont House Committee. The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony this morning on a bill that would replace criminal penalties with a $100 fine for those found carrying less than two ounces of marijuana.

Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington, is a lead sponsor of the bill. He told the Committee it would free up police to enforce more serious crimes.

Commissioner of Public Safety Keith Flynn said he agrees with Pearson, though he’d like to reduce the amount from two ounces to one and make sure the measure allowed search and seizure. To prove his point, Flynn brought two bags of marijuana to display for lawmakers the difference between one and two ounces of pot.

Some Committee members raised concerns about the message the legislation might send to teenagers.

Decriminalizing marijuana possession was once considered one of the marquee issues of the session, but it has taken a back seat to the budget, taxes and renewable energy.

It’s a topic that has been moving quickly through the country, including neighboring New Hampshire, where House lawmakers last week passed legislation decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for the fourth time in five years.

VPR News: House Committee Appears Set To Approve Marijuana Decriminalization