Vermont marijuana offenses rise despite drug's decriminalization – Press Herald
Law enforcement filed paperwork last year for more than double the amount of arrests in 2012.
MONTPELIER, Vt. — What Vermont has lost in arrests since decriminalizing marijuana in 2013 it’s more than made up for by issuing tickets for pot possession. Last year, law enforcement around the state filed paperwork with the court for 1,366 adult civil marijuana complaints, more than double the amount of arrests on file with the Vermont Crime Information Center in 2012 when a similar offense was still criminal, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.
Vermont’s law replaced criminal penalties with civil fines – similar to a traffic ticket – for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana or 5 grams of hashish. People under the age of 21 caught with small amounts of pot now face possible referral to court diversion for a first offense, potential civil penalties and/or license suspension, and criminal penalties for a third violation.
Previously, possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana was punishable by jail terms ranging from six months to two years.
Attorney General Bill Sorrell suspects that an unintended benefit is that the state is drawing in more revenue from the tickets than it did when the violation was criminal. The tickets carry fines of up to $200 for a first offense and up to $500 for a third offense.
“It’s a heck of a lot more money than the state was making when it was criminal because so few pot cases were being prosecuted through the court system,” he said.
Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said it’s far easier and less time consuming for police to issue a notice of a civil infraction than to make an arrest for a criminal case. There’s less paperwork and less police and other resources used, he said.
And it’s likely better for the accused because they don’t have a criminal pot conviction on their record which impacts their ability to get public housing or student loans, said Defender General Matthew Valerio.