Vermont became the 17th state in the nation Thursday to eliminate criminal penalties for the possession of a small amount of marijuana, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced.
Gov. Shumlin signed into law legislation decriminalizing possession by an adult of one ounce or less.
The law signed today replaces criminal penalties with a civil fine for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. In addition, it treats possession of such amounts of marijuana by people under age 21 the same as underage possession of alcohol, including referral to court diversion for a first offense, potential civil penalties and/or license suspension, and criminal penalties for a third violation.
Half of the funds collected under this law will go to the Vermont Drug Task Force, which focuses efforts on targeting mid- to high-level drug dealers and combating the use of heroin in Vermont.
Previously under Vermont law, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana was punishable by a six- to 24-month jail term. Vermont legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2004.