by Peter Freyne
Next Tuesday night, Burlington city councilors will debate whether or not to place an "advisory" question on the March Town Meeting Day ballot, asking voters if they think possession of small amounts of marijuana should be decriminalized in Vermont’s largest city.
The resolution, sponsored by Democrat Ed Adrian and Progressive Tim Ashe, would also call on the Governor and the Legislature to “explore creating a similar system for all communities statewide.”
"I really believe the appropriate place for that debate is in the General Assembly," said GOP Jim, "not in individual communities or counties in the state, but here in the Legislature where the lawmakers ought to decide what the appropriate penalties are."
"It’s awkward," said Douglas at his Thursday press conference, "for a state to have individual municipalities making criminal laws different from district to district."
Currently there’s a bill in the State Senate that would decriminalize possession of up to four ounces of marijuana, making it a civil offense punishable by no more than a $1000 fine.
Incidentally, on St. Patrick's Day 30 years ago, when he was representing Middlebury in the Vermont House, Rep. Jim Douglas was one of 75 House members who voted in favor of a marijuana-decriminalization bill that would have made possession of one ounce of pot punishable in Vermont by no more than a $100 fine.
Though it passed the House on March 17, 1978, the pot-decriminalization bill died in the Vermont Senate where it never made it to the floor for a vote.