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VT: Marijuana Laws Take Center Stage At Burlington Forum

August 14, 2010

WCAX.COM / 11 August 2010 / Jennifer Reading

Peter Shumlin

Montpelier, Vermont – August 10, 2010
Peter Shumlin addressed a small crowd at UVM on Tuesday night. He was talking about the state’s marijuana policy. Shumlin says he supports legislation to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. For the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, it just comes down to dollars and cents.

“We can’t afford to continue locking up criminals for minor marijuana charges,” said Peter Shumlin.

Instead Shumlin suggests that Vermont change its laws to make marijuana possession a civil rather than criminal issue. This means that individuals caught with small amounts of pot would be ticketed. Vermont isn’t the first state to consider this.

“We should join states like Massachusetts in decriminalizing marijuana, not making it legal but reducing the penalties so we can focus our dollars on the real problems. The hardened criminals,” said Shumlin.

As Vermont’s crime rate continues to fall, its incarceration rate continues to rise. Some policy makers say marijuana users do not belong in that growing population.

“Prisons should be reserved for people we’re scared of not people we’re mad at,” said Jason Lorber, D-Burlington.

Although some call for full legalization of the drug, others want a gradual policy change because they say the current state laws are ignoring a bigger problem.

“It’s bad the way things are setup. Legal drugs are more dangerous and it’s a system that needs to be reevaluated,” said Antonio Colangelo, reform supporter.

Another Democrat for governor, Matt Dunne, also supports decriminalization of marijuana. But says he opposes full legalization of the drug.

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