By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
A majority of Vermont voters favor removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released on Wednesday. Of those polled, 63 percent supported replacing criminal penalties for possession of an ounce or less of cannabis with a civil infraction and a fine of up to $150, with no threat of arrest or jail.
Under current Vermont law, the penalty for possession of cannabis is up to six months in jail and up to a $500 fine.
The poll also reported that a majority of Vermonters would support politicians who also supported making this change. When asked if they would be more likely to vote for a legislator that voted to replace criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, 52 percent reported that they would be more likely to support such a lawmaker.
??This is particularly relevant in light of HB 427, a bill currently being considered in the Vermont House, which closely mirrors the reform described to respondents in the poll.
Part of the reason behind the support for this bill is the perception of danger associated with marijuana as compared to alcohol. Of those polled, 74 percent responded that marijuana is as safe or safer than alcohol.
This perception, which is supported by many scientific studies, only serves to highlight the discrepancy between cannabis and alcohol penalties.
"Vermont voters overwhelmingly believe marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol and that people who possess a small amount should not face up to six months in jail and a criminal conviction," said Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.
"It's time for legislative leadership to bring this sensible proposal to a vote, so that Vermont can focus its limited criminal justice resources on crime with actual victims," O'Keefe said.
The full results of the poll can be viewed here in PDF format: http://mpp.org/VTpoll
Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.