Vermont the 17th State to Loosen Pot Laws

Possession of up to an ounce about to be decriminalized

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 14, 2013 2:29 AM CDT | Updated May 14, 2013 5:25 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Green Mountain State just got a little greener: Vermont's legislature has voted to make the state the 17th to loosen its marijuana laws, the Times Argus reports. A bill decriminalizing the possession of under an ounce of pot has passed both chambers and is now headed to the desk of Gov. Peter Shumlin, a supporter of the measure. "I applaud the Legislature's action to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana," the Democrat said in a statement. "Vermonters support sensible drug policies."

The move, which makes possession a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $500, frees "our courts and law enforcement to focus their limited resources more effectively to fight highly addictive opiates such as heroin," Shumlin said. Vermont's legislature also passed a bill allowing farmers to grow hemp, which, like the marijuana bill, is at odds with federal law, VPR notes.

First-time misdemeanor possession offenses in Vermont currently carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail.
First-time misdemeanor possession offenses in Vermont currently carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail.   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
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