On June 6, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D) enthusiastically signed legislation that does away with criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of weed and up to five grams of hashish for adults 21 and over. Of course, the Green Mountain State legalized medical marijuana way back in 2004, but until now, holding up to an ounce of recreational pot carried a potential prison sentence of up to six months.
Under the new law, which takes effect on July 1, a first-time possession bust results in a fine that will not exceed $200, with the monetary penalty increasing for each subsequent offense -- the equivalent of a traffic ticket. First-time offenders ages 16 to 20 must attend mandatory education and treatment programs, with potential misdemeanor criminal penalties for a third bust -- but once you're 21 you cannot be criminally charged for under an ounce.
Vermont thus becomes the 15th state to decriminalize pot for a total of seventeen. Now, more than one-third of U.S. states do not put people behind bars for petty possession.
Previously, Shumlin, a popular and highly progressive governor, had expressed his complete support for pot decrim. A statement released in May read: “I applaud the Legislature’s action to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Vermonters support sensible drug policies. This legislation allows our courts and law enforcement to focus their limited resources more effectively to fight highly addictive opiates such as heroin and prescription drugs that are tearing apart families and communities.”