On June 6th, Vermont joined as the 17th state in the Union to eliminate criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The law signed by governor Shumlin of Vermont on Thursday replaces criminal sanctions with civil penalties for possession of marijuana of less than 1 oz.
The decriminalization of marijuana in Vermont runs in opposition to the UN-mandated Federal marijuana law. Nevertheless, two-thirds of Vermont voters and a majority of the Vermont legislature supported a law that places authority to regulate cannabis at the local level. The Vermont law H. 200 is not as broad sweeping as the recently passed marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington State that nullifies Federal law.
The $200 civil penalty fee for individuals that are in possession of less than 1 oz. of marijunia is intended to free up state resources by allowing Vermont law enforcement and penal system to focus on incarceration of more serious crimes. The previous penalty of up to six months in jail for a first time offense and two years for a second time offense was considered by many Vermonters to be a waste of taxpayer money.
Possession of less than 1 oz of marijuana in Vermont is no longer a misdemeanor but individuals under the age of 21 would still need to undergo substance abuse counseling and other treatment programs.