By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
Legislation reducing marijuana possession penalties in Vermont became law today.
Under the new state law, penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia by a person 21 years of age or older have been amended from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine) to a civil fine only --- no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record. The law also decriminalizes possession of less than five grams of hashish.
Vermont's new law is similar to existing 'decriminalization' laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island, where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.
Five additional states - Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio - treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense.
Three states - Alaska, Colorado, and Washington - impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.