Montpelier To Vote on Marijuana
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Montpelier To Vote on Marijuana
Posted by CN Staff on March 01, 2010 at 04:16:05 PT
By Molly Walsh, Free Press Staff Writer
Source: Burlington Free Press
Vermont -- Montpelier residents will be asked Tuesday to vote on a resolution urging the Legislature to replace criminal penalities with a civil fine for adults who possess a small amount of marijuana.The measure arrives on the Town Meeting Day ballot just weeks after Burlington police said a former Montpelier resident was impaired by marijuana when he caused a head-on car crash in January on Vermont 127, known as the Beltline, in Burlington. The resident killed himself and the driver of the other car. But supporters of the Montpelier marijuana measure say police were too quick to blame the crash on the drug.
The ballot item is the result of a petition drive led by the Vermont Alliance for Intelligent Drug Laws, which is lobbying for decriminalization statewide. Group founder Nancy Lynch said she, a volunteer from Burlington and two Montpelier residents went door to door and quickly collected nearly 500 signatures. People were overwhelmingly supportive, said Lynch, a Williamstown resident.Montpelier is the only community in the state where the group sought to put a resolution on the ballot, and Lynch said she did not know of any other communities with similar Town Meeting Day items.Only about 310 signatures (5 percent of registered voters) were needed to petition in Montpelier, which was a factor in choosing the state’s capital for the effort, Lynch said. The alliance also chose Montpelier to capture the attention of lawmakers at the Statehouse, where a decriminalization bill has been stuck in committee since last year. Under the bill, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana would carry no criminal charges or jail time and instead trigger a fine of $100. A 'No-Brainer?'  A yes vote would send lawmakers a message that there is significant public support for decriminalization, Lynch said. Current law creates criminals out of nonviolent offenders and costs the state millions in courts and corrections money. Decriminalization would be “a no-brainer,” said Lynch, executive director of the Burlington Peace and Justice Center.“It would save the state money,” she said. “It would bring in line the kind of punishment that would fit the crime, if you will, and be a more appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”The proposed nonbinding resolution has generated little debate in Montpelier, said Mayor and Democratic State Rep. Mary Hooper. She declined to say how she would vote on the item — Article 16 — and repeatedly hedged when asked whether she supported the measure.“I certainly welcome this as a way to have a conversation about a very interesting policy issue,” Hooper said. “I know that our courts and our criminal-justice system are clogged with nonviolent offenses and that we have to figure out a different way of managing behavior.”Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos could not be reached for comment. Sgt. Wade Cochran said he was unaware of the ballot article but opposes decriminalization: “I would think that would be sending the wrong message to our children.”Police often give warnings when individuals are found with small amounts of marijuana, Cochran said. “Not a lot happens with one joint, because it ties up the court system. Most cases, the marijuana is destroyed, and the people are given a warning. But it’s rare that you come across one joint. If there’s one, they usually have their own little stash on them.”Supporters of the resolution say decriminalization is unlikely to increase marijuana use or possible problems associated with it. The Timing  The measure coincidentally comes to the Montpelier ballot after a tragedy involving 2008 Montpelier High School graduate Taylor McLaughlin, 20. Police say he drove his car into the oncoming lane of the Beltline in Burlington on Jan. 30, killing himself and the driver of the other car, Michael Wagner, 30, of Colchester.Burlington police recently concluded the investigation of the crash and said Feb. 16 that marijuana was a factor. An autopsy and toxicology screening of McLauglin done for the state Medical Examiner’s Office found McLaughlin’s THC level was 14.1 nanograms per milliliter. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active drug in marijuana.Police cited a 2005 study that suggested THC levels of 9 to 12 nanograms per millimeter could impair driving.No drugs were found in the car, and police speculated McLaughlin used marijuana earlier in the day, before he drove the vehicle.Lynch said police were too quick to blame marijuana for the crash.“They should be ashamed of themselves” she said. “It’s disrespectful to his family and to him, given that he’s no longer here to defend himself.”Lynch acknowledged that marijuana can impair one’s ability to drive but said it’s unclear what role, if any, marijuana played in the Burlington crash.  Safety At The Wheel  Vermont State Police Lt. John Flannigan, commander of the state police’s Traffic Safety Unit, said marijuana is the second most common substance identified in Vermont driving under the influence of drugs cases, behind prescription drugs.“It’s a drug that can certainly affect judgment, coordination, vision — those are all critical things needed to operate a motor vehicle safely,” he said.Vermont law does not set a minimum THC level for impaired driving convictions or require toxicology tests, although they are often used, Flannigan said. The law allows police to charge individuals who are under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol to a degree that makes them “incapable” of operating a motor vehicle safely.It’s difficult to say whether decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana would affect impaired driving rates, Flannigan said: “It’s hard to answer that question. I don’t know if that’s going to change behavior or use.”Hooper, the mayor, said there is a “great deal of sorrow” in Montpelier about the Burlington crash.“Obviously it’s a great human tragedy, so that’s part of the reason to have a rigorous public policy debate, because it’s not a simple issue,” she said. “Clearly, people driving while impaired, be it from drugs or alcohol, is a huge issue in our society with huge costs.”Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)Author: Molly Walsh, Free Press Staff Writer Published: Monday, March 1, 2010Copyright: 2010 Burlington Free PressURL: letters bfp.burlingtonfreepress.comWebsite: CannabisNews -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on March 03, 2010 at 07:04:53 PT
Montpelier Voters Want Marijuana Decriminalized
1530 to 585 Voted In Favor Of Decriminalization.March 2, 2010Montpelier, Vt. -- Voters in Vermont's capital city have voted in favor of a measure calling on the state to decriminalize possession of marijuana.In a Town Meeting Day vote, Montpelier residents approved a measure encouraging the state to make possession of small amounts of pot punishable by a civil fine only, not by criminal charges.The measure got on Tuesday's ballot as the result of a petition drive by the Vermont Alliance for Intelligent Drug Laws that got almost 500 signatures.The fliers read "We don't need to arrest marijuana users" and "When a fine would be fine." Supporters with the Vermont Alliance for Intelligent Drug Laws stood outside Montpelier's City Hall to get their message out to voters Tuesday."What were trying to do is send the message that this is an important issue. We had a Gallup poll that showed 65 percent of Vermonters do support decriminalization," said Tom Mason, an attorney who works with the group."It doesn't mean it's not going to be criminal to sell or possess large amounts of marijuana. We're just trying to focus law enforcement's resources and efforts to combat dangerous criminals and not nonviolent ones in their homes," said Mason. Copyright: 2010 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. URL:
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Comment #2 posted by James Crosby on March 01, 2010 at 12:05:48 PT:
Just remember to support the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, and spread the word, please!
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 01, 2010 at 09:45:13 PT
What About Alcohol?
I have seen people in no condition to drive after being at a concert and it also happens at sports events. Alcohol is legal and dealt with accordingly. Why treat Cannabis differently then alcohol or legal prescription drug use?
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