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 direction.
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.