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Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Clears Senate Panel

Supporters of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana in Vermont are one step closer to their goal.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted, 4-1,  to advance the House bill that would make it a civil offense – instead of a crime – to possess one ounce or less of marijuana.

Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears was opposed until his Committee amended the bill for the state to treat people under 21 the same for possession of marijuana as for alcohol.

Sears then voted in favor, saying he wanted to send a clear message to the public that the bill would not legalize marijuana. “And I think we do that by having graduated sanctions for first, second and third offense of possession of marijuana by people over 21," Sears said. "I hope people will recognize that this bill attempts to move Vermont forward, but it is still against the law.”

The bill's sponsors say the collateral consequences of a misdemeanor charge are out of whack with the offense of possessing a small amount of marijuana.

The decriminalization bill now goes to the Senate.

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