Pubdate: Thu, 22 Mar 2012
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2012 Rutland Herald
Author: Chris Dinnan


I was disappointed to read recently that legislation to decriminalize
marijuana was "stalled" in the House. Legalization and regulation of
marijuana would be the most reasonable approach to this public policy
issue, but decriminalization would have been a step in the right

The proposed legislation was well thought out and would have
encouraged youthful offenders (under 21 years old) in the possession
of one ounce or less of marijuana to choose an educational / community
service piece, offered in every county through court diversion, in
lieu of a fine. Repeat youthful offenders would face increasing fines
and possibly the loss of their driver's license for a specified period
of time. A person 21 years of age or older would simply face a fine,
which would increase for repeat civil offenses.

The current policy, unless or until it is changed, will continue to
lead to an absurd waste of public funds that could be directed towards
so many other more compelling areas of need. Treatment comes to mind.
Also, offenders, mostly young people, will continue to be branded for
life with a criminal record that could disqualify them from receiving
federally subsidized student loans and/or limit their future housing
and employment opportunities.

The fact that this proposed legislation was blocked from making its
way to the floor this session, in spite of the fact that a clear
majority of Vermonters support the decriminalization of marijuana,
could in itself be considered a "crime." It is time to have an open,
public dialogue and discussion about this issue between individuals,
within families and communities, as a state and ultimately as a
nation. At this point in time, we have been prevented from doing so in
Vermont by the leadership of the House.

Chris Dinnan

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