Vt. Senate To Consider Bills Easing Pot Laws

Vt. Senate To Consider Bills Easing Pot Laws
Posted by CN Staff on January 11, 2008 at 05:33:18 PT
By Daniel Barlow, Vermont Press Bureau 
Source: Times Argus
Montpelier, VT -- Senate lawmakers will consider a bill making it a civil, not criminal, offense to possess small amounts of marijuana. At the same time, they will also look at a second bill increasing the penalties for possessing heroin and cocaine by reducing the amount possessed that constitutes "trafficking."The moves come following months of public debate on the efficacy and social and fiscal costs of Vermont's drug policies and whether it makes sense to decriminalize marijuana.
Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, has scheduled a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the evening of Jan. 23 to hear from members of the public who have concerns about Vermont's drug policies.After the hearing, that committee is expected to begin taking testimony on the two-pronged approach, which would boost penalties for possessing the harder drugs and use civil violations and the court diversion program for marijuana possession."I thought it was important to let the public weigh in before we started taking a close look at the proposals," said Sears, the chair of the Judiciary Committee. "This is a change in state law regarding drugs, and the public probably has some thoughts about this."The marijuana decriminalization bill, proposed last year by Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, would make it a civil violation, with a fine of up to $1,000, to possess up to four ounces of marijuana or two small marijuana plants. Selling small amounts of marijuana would result in a $250 fine, according to the bill.Possessing or selling larger amounts of the plant – more than four ounces or more than five plants – would still be a criminal act, under the bill, and could result in fines of up to $100,000 and five years in prison.The second bill, proposed last year by Sears, lowers the trafficking criminal charges threshold for cocaine from 300 grams to 150 and from seven grams for heroin to 3.5 grams. Penalties for being caught with these drugs would be jail time of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $1 million.Sears said he believes the trafficking thresholds for the hard drugs are too low in Vermont, but he added that he and other committee members do have concerns with the levels of decriminalized marijuana in White's bill, opening the door to the possibility that the four ounces could lowered."Four ounces of marijuana is a felony," he said. "I don't think we want to go there."Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, has placed drug law reform as one of his priorities for this new legislative session — a topic that Gov. James Douglas, a Republican, has said he is open to having discussed, although he has not endorsed the effort.The new focus on marijuana decriminalization comes after a political scuffle erupted several months ago between Douglas and Robert Sand, a prosecutor in Windsor County who favors marijuana decriminalization.Late last year Douglas ordered state-controlled police officials to bypass Sand's office on marijuana cases after the prosecutor approved court diversion for a local attorney caught with 30 marijuana plants.He later rescinded that policy after Sand made it clear he does not have a blanket policy regarding marijuana possession and after news reports surfaced that an Orange County prosecutor also authorized court diversion for a man arrested with more than 100 plants.Vermont is certainly not the first state to look at marijuana decriminalization, according to Bruce Mirken, the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for drug policy reform.Eleven other states, including New York and Maine, already have similar state laws, some dating back to the 1970s, Mirken said. The specifics of the laws vary from state to state, he added, but Vermont's latest effort seems to be moderate compared to some of the other states."According to the FBI, last year there were 829,000 arrests in the United States for marijuana possession," he said. "That's one arrest every 38 seconds.""The really shocking thing is that there were more marijuana arrests than arrests for all other violent criminal acts combined," Mirken added.Jane Woodruff, the executive director of the Vermont Department of State's Attorney's and Sheriffs, said she has not looked closely at the two drug bills and first needs to speak with members of her group before taking a position on the efforts.Woodruff did say that as a "rule of thumb" most cases involving a small amount of marijuana from first-time offenders are sent to the court diversion, which she called a "very good program.""Unless they were a violent criminal, they will probably go to diversion," she said.She added that prosecutors in Vermont have told her anecdotally that reviewing and bringing charges in marijuana possession cases do not consume a large amount of time. That is in contrast to stories that some other lawmakers have heard, including Sears."Some prosecutors have told me that they might spend as much time investigating cases involving small amounts of marijuana as they might for a clear-cut murder case," he said, adding that this issue will be one of many that his committee looks at.The public hearing on the two drug bills is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Room 11 at the Statehouse on Jan. 23.Complete Title: Vt. Senate To Consider Bills Easing Pot Laws, Tightening Sanctions for Coke and Heroin Source: Times Argus (Barre, VT)Author: Daniel Barlow, Vermont Press Bureau Published: January 11, 2008 Copyright: 2008 Times ArgusContact: letters timesargus.comWebsite: Related Articles: Pot Clouds Political Judgment is Pot Cultivation for Personal Use Illegal?'s Time To Decriminalize Marijuana
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #15 posted by runruff on January 13, 2008 at 22:04:18 PT:
The woman is bought and paid for. She has sold her soul to Satan. She is owned by the various corporations, she has many many skeletons in the closet and much to hide.I believe this woman set her sights on the presidency when she was a very young woman possibly in high school. I believe it was understood while her husband was president that one day it would be her turn. I believe she actually feels a sense of entitlement to the job because she has spent her whole life wishing for it, aiming for it and working toward it.Along the way these many years she had made compromises, she has made promises, she has broken the law. Se has done any and every unsavory thing to get herself where she is today. She now belongs to the insiders club, the same club her husband belongs to, that George senior belongs to, and that W the chimp of belongs to.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #14 posted by FoM on January 12, 2008 at 08:48:04 PT
John Tyler 
I guess even Clinton is better then any of the top people running on the Republican side though. I don't like her but I am trying to step back a little and take a deep breath these days. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by John Tyler on January 12, 2008 at 08:35:13 PT
Clinton II
She very well could be, but I don’t expect much from her in the way of serious reform. She did give lip service to calling off the DEA on raids on medical cannabis facilities in states that allow it, but so did George. As a Senator for NY she didn’t do anything about “change”. When Bill was President things got worse.  Cannabis arrests went from 300,000 plus per year to over 700,000 plus per year. So, on the Dems side only Dennis K. offered any real “change”, but he is a long shot. Maybe if in the primaries we all voted for Dennis she would get one of those soul-searching political scares and come to a realization that “change” is needed. I don’t know. I’m still looking for the answer. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by FoM on January 12, 2008 at 05:35:45 PT
Don't worry Clinton will be our next president.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by OverwhelmSam on January 11, 2008 at 22:50:17 PT
Idea for ONDCP Commercial
Legalizing marijuana will lead to infants shooting herion in the crib, switch to scene of infant holding rubber strap in it's gums and injecting the needle in it's arm between diaper changes and formula fix.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by sam adams on January 11, 2008 at 22:24:04 PT
not sure if this will allow dispensaries or not....
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by John Tyler on January 11, 2008 at 21:41:20 PT
Barack VI
Here is what concerned me.
Barack Obama responded to "Partnership For A Drug Free America" presidential candidate questions by saying he would increase the drug war and give federal power over drug courts. Obama will make the drug war even worse in America!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by sam adams on January 11, 2008 at 21:26:37 PT
obama - yikes
wow, now I am scared about Obama.  I did not like his little video piece at all. It sounded to me like he was laying the groundwork to continue current federal policy.He specifically said that he was against letting patients grow their own medicine, which is the basic foundation of the medical MJ laws in all 12 states with effective laws.It sounds to me like he just endorsed the current policy of saying that the science needs to be proven. That opens the door to just telling the FDA to keep lying, and bingo, the science is never "proven"Remember, Bush specifically said he's let the states do as they may, and then ordered the DEA to begin raids where Clinton had left Cali alone. So I think we can probably expect worse from what each candidate says if they get elected.Even if the new president loved medical MJ, remember that the current voted overwhelmingly in favor of the DEA raids.  The best strategy appears to be continuing to convert new states, and establishing dispensaires in more states, that will eventually force the feds' hands.Good news is coming from Canada, I believe a court decision there just made dispensaries legal for all of Canada.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by John Tyler on January 11, 2008 at 19:49:19 PT
Barack III
I’m sorry I was wrong about thinking Barack might be OK. He is a total sell out. I wouldn’t vote for him if he were running for dogcatcher. He is just another politician hungry for money and power, and more than willing to jail people for using a God given plant.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by John Tyler on January 11, 2008 at 18:12:31 PT
timid politicians
Again with this tedious hair splitting by timid politicians. Cannabis prohibition is so last century. It is the last of countless racist, and socially repressive legislation that has been abolished. It is time for it to go to the footnotes of history books. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by John Tyler on January 11, 2008 at 18:05:30 PT
Barack II
It’s a shame to see this. Here is another black politician getting “bought off” or “selling out” for prestige, money and power so he can get more money and power. How sad, shallow, empty and meaningless is that? Last week he was bubbling over with “change”. All I see is more of the same. I would vote for him if there were nobody else, but otherwise I’m disappointed in him at this point.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by observer on January 11, 2008 at 10:41:31 PT
Prohibitionist legislators will scream bloody murder, claiming that any lessening of the penalties for the use of this plant is wicked, evil, and tantamount and the first step to legalizing all drugs (for tiny children, for effect). Prohibitionists will also loudly claim that (since they are experts at knowing the mind of The Child) that lessening of the pot penalties for adults will send the wrong message to children. (And of course, only prohibitionists are qualified to tell what "message" is sent when and where.)And this one:"Some prosecutors have told me that they might spend as much time investigating cases involving small amounts of marijuana as they might for a clear-cut murder case," he said, adding that this issue will be one of many that his committee looks at.... will invariably be spun as proof positive that more prosecutors and police are needed to jail pot smokers (called "dealers and users" or some such) to send out the right message, to children. Always more government, never less. If they (the prohibitionists at "The public hearing on the two drug bills is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Room 11 at the Statehouse on Jan. 23.") play it right, they will let big crocodile tears for all the drug-damaged children roll down their cheeks. They will keep it emotional. For our logic and science, they will answer with emotions, fear and lies; especially fear for "the children". Fear wins over facts any day, so the police and prison unions at the hearing will pump up the fear. If you don't jail adults for a little grass ("which isn't like the pot of the '60 - marijuana in 2008 is deadly poison!"), your kids will get hooked on crack, speed, and heroin, and will end up dead, dead, dead from this new reefer. [Insert emotional images here.] We've seen this Punch and Judy show so many times, we can write the prohibitionists' lines for them. (Hope I'm wrong about this one. Sometimes lightening strikes.) 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 11, 2008 at 10:13:27 PT:
He does mention how he had a loved one with cancer. And that if the science and doctors point towards using it, then he'd be fine with it. But under strict control.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Truth on January 11, 2008 at 10:06:24 PT
Ron Paul
Ron Paul:* Has Voted AGAINST the DRUG CZAR's (John Walters) Budget EVERY YEAR* Is co-sponsor of The STATE'S RIGHTS TO MEDICAL MARIJUANA Act* Is CHIEF SPONSOR of 2007 INDUSTRIAL HEMP ACT* Votes AGAINST all anti-marijuana advertising EVERY YEAR* Votes AGAINST JUSTICE DEPARTMENT appropriations (money) for the DEA every year
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by Truth on January 11, 2008 at 10:04:58 PT
I'll probably vote for him but....Barack Obama has said CLEARLY HE WILL NOT LEGALIZE MARIJUANA or in any way alter the drug war except he has promised to stop DEA raids against medical patients in California. His remark was: "It's a poor use of resources." Period. In all the videos of Barack Obama being asked about medical marijuana, he expresses no sympathy or empathy on this issue. Since joining the Senate in 2004, Barack Obama has never sponsored or even voted for ANY legislation that repeals ANY aspect of the Drug War. Barack Obama has ALWAYS VOTED TO FUND THE IRAQ WAR in EVERY SENATE vote.From Cannabis Culture Magazine
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment