Vt. House backs marijuana decriminalization

Chron

(AP) — The Vermont House gave preliminary approval Friday to a bill that would change the offense of possessing up to an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor crime to a civil offense similar to a speeding violation.

On roll call vote of 98-44, the House endorsed the bill, which would impose a fine of as much as $300 for anyone caught with up to an ounce of the drug. The bill also contains provisions designed to eliminate the possibility of a permanent criminal record or future collateral consequences such as ineligibility for certain jobs or government benefits for those convicted of possessing up to two ounces, or up to four plants.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, which is also expected to pass it.

Supporters of the bill were in two camps: those who wanted to remove the danger of a permanent criminal record that can face young people convicted of possessing small amounts of pot, and those who said they saw the bill as a small step toward their real goal: legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana.

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