Pubdate: Tue, 29 Jan 2008
Source: Vermont Cynic (U of Vermont, VT Edu)
Copyright: 2008 Vermont Cynic
Author: Colin Constantine
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


The Burlington City Council voted last Tuesday against the ballot
question that would decriminalize small quantities of marijuana
possession locally.

Backed by councilmen Ed Adrian and Timothy Ashe, the proposal failed
7-6, which means it will not be brought to voters for the Town Meeting
Day elections in March.

The measure was initially introduced as a local topic, then divided to
allow the legislature to consider the issue. "It could come up again,"
Adrian said.

"We got a commitment from the council to entertain a discussion, on
the local level, on how we might come up with other options, other
than the criminal justice system." Ashe said. "The council did not
want to go to the voters because they feel [that] the state is going
to take up the discussion."

"It is my view that the city of Burlington could act on
decriminalization much more quickly with more of a uniformed voice
from the public than the legislature," Ashe said.

Although Ashe said "it is an issue that affects the people in Vermont
of all ages", he says, "This is an idea that has been close to being
discussed for 35 years. Thirty five years with no action."

Opponents on the topic, like Addison County State Attorney John Quinn,
have been concerned over decriminalization because "we should be
setting an example that people can get ahead by getting a good
education, working hard and being productive," Quinn said.

In an article published by the Burlington Free Press, Quinn addresses
the issue with questions like, "How many of Vermont's youth would take
up pot smoking if it were no longer against the law?"

"I don't think decriminalizing is really going to change anything. If
people want to smoke pot, they'll smoke pot. If people don't want to
smoke pot, they're not going to smoke pot," Adrian said.

The Burlington Police Department issued an online statement saying,
"[The Department] does not favor the "decriminalization" of marijuana
or the removal of the possibility for offenders to be subject to
criminal penalty for any level of marijuana possession," but adds,
"[W]e do favor the exploration of alternative civil penalties for low
level marijuana possession."

"Small marijuana offenses are really the least of the troubles we have
in society in terms of the crimes that are committed," Adrian said.

"Some people think a small quantity is a quarter ounce or a half
ounce." Adrian said. "Personally I think it should be legal
completely, but I don't think that as a society we're willing to go
that far that quickly."

Although the initial proposal failed, the legislature has not yet
acted, giving hope to advocates of decriminalization. "For now, it
won't be for voters, locally, but cross your fingers for the
legislature," Ashe said.
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath