Amid a growing body of evidence regarding the positive effects of marijuana as medicine, more states are taking steps to decriminalize the drug even for those who do not have a prescription.
Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers understand that Vermont became the latest state to pass a law removing criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana by civilians.
Many states, including California, have enacted similar measures over the years as there has been a widespread realization that the so-called “War on Drugs” has failed and that resources spent prosecuting petty marijuana “crimes” are essentially wasted.
The new law in Vermont means that individuals caught with possession of up to one ounce (or up to 5 grams if it is hashish form) will now face civil fines, as opposed to criminal penalties.
The state governor was later quoted as saying that the measure was “common sense.” Limited law law enforcement resources as they relate to drugs would be better spent focusing on reduction of addiction and abuse involving powerful opiates such as heroin or drugs like methamphetamine, rather than clamping down on individuals for marijuana possession.
For those under the age of 21 found to be in possession of the drug, the courts will treat it in much the same way as it would be for the possession of alcohol, with a court referral involving civil penalties and possible license suspension. Criminal penalties would only be applicable after a third or subsequent offense.
Vermont is the 17th state to enact such a measure. Similar action has already been taken in:
In Vermont, similar to what we see in California, there are still criminal penalties for possession of larger quantities of the drug or depending on where the possession was discovered.
For example, possession of less than 28.5 grams in California is typically an infraction, punishable by a $100 fine. However, if that same possession is discovered on school grounds, it’s a misdemeanor punishable by up to 10 days in jail and a $250 fine. A person caught with more than 28.5 grams might face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
The real incarceration time is inflicted if you have possession of any amount with intention to distribute (up to 3 years). It’s the same story if you illegally cultivate the drug or are caught selling it. If you are over the age of 18 and are caught selling the drug to someone under the age of 17, you could be facing up to 7 years in prison.
Alteration of the law in Vermont came just as researchers in Israel had released a study suggesting that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, may be helpful in arresting certain kinds of brain damage in mice. The hope is that might somehow translate to help for humans who have suffered traumatic brain damage.
It’s studies like this that are helping to shift public attitudes about marijuana. No longer is it considered by many to be a dangerous drug, although it remains as a Schedule I narcotic according to federal government guidelines.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Marijuana decriminalization bill signed into law in Vermont, June 7, 2013, By Devin Kelly, The Los Angeles Times
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Marijuana Arrests Fueled in Part by Advent of Private Prisons, June 7, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog