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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Surprise, surprise. The cops don’t want us to reform the marijuana laws.

Police from across Vermont descended on the State House in Montpelier on Thursday to protest ongoing hearings on legislation that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana — despite the fact that the move is supported by the state’s Attorney General, the Governor himself and many state lawmakers, reports Thomas H. Clarke at The Daily Chronic.

Two marijuana decriminalization bills currently in the Legislature are officially opposed by the Vermont Police Association, the Vermont Police Chiefs Association and the Vermont State Sheriffs Association. The Vermont Troopers’ Association has taken no position regarding cannabis decrim, according to the group’s president, Sgt. Mike O’Neil.

Law enforcement officers were at the State House from about 8 a.m. until around 1 p.m. to “confer with” (read: pressure, browbeat and defend the rotten status quo) lawmakers and others about why decriminalizing cannabis is supposedly such a horrible idea.

Rep. Chris Pearson sponsors the Vermont House version of the decrim bill [National Popular Vote]
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Rep. Chris Pearson sponsors the Vermont House version of the decrim bill
[National Popular Vote]

House Bill 200, introduced by Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington), would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of $100, similar to a traffic ticket. The bill is cosponsored by 38 other state representatives.

Senate Bill 48, introduced by Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), would remove criminal penalties for up to an ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of $100. It has a tri-partisan group of eight cosponsors.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell, the top law enforcement officer in the state, supports the legislation.

“I’m here in support of decriminalization,” he told a House committee last week. “This might be a surprise to some but the reality is possession of small amounts of marijuana has in effect been decriminalized for quite some time in this state.”

He added that Vermonters, in addition to enjoying the benefits of decrim, should be allowed to grow “one or two” marijuana plants without fear of arrest.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell: "Quote" [VT Digger]
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Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell:
“I’m here in support of decriminalization”
[VT Digger]

“If you take away the ability to grow your own, you’re pushing someone who wants to possess and use marijuana into the marketplace of having to deal with marijuana dealers,” Sorrell said. “And is that the behavior you essentially want to require and foster?”

Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn and Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan also testified in favor of the bill, joining public defenders and marijuana advocates in expressing their support.

Vermont Gov. Pete Shumlin also supports decrim, but at the one-ounce level proposed in the Senate rather than two ounces as proposed in the House.

But Steve McQueen (yeah, that’s really this ass-bag’s name), chief of the Winooski Police Department and president of the Vermont Association of Police Chiefs, and Essex County Sheriff Trevor Colby, president of the Vermont Sheriffs’ Association, really dislike the idea of decriminalizing pot. Why, what on earth would they do without all that ridiculous power to disrupt people’s lives over possessing a plant?

Both officers claimed that decriminalizing marijuana would send “the wrong message” to the “state’s youth.” McQueen revealingly added that the “hammer” of prosecution gives officers the “leverage” they “need” to get offenders on the “straight and narrow.” (I think I just puked a little in my mouth.)

Vermonters strongly support marijuana decrim according to a February survey by Public Policy Polling. It found nearly two of every three residents — 63 percent — support “a change in the law to provide for a fine of up to $150 without jail time for those who possess an ounce or less of marijuana for personal use.”

 

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