Removing jail penalties for marijuana
02/21/08 12:00PM By Mitch Wertlieb  Download MP3
A plan to reduce the penalties for possessing marijuana easily passed the Vermont Senate last week, and the House will take up the issue soon. The bill removes jail sentences for most people caught with 2 ounces of marijuana, but stops short of fully decriminalizing marijuana. We talk with Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears about his support for the legislation, and Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie who opposes the idea. (Listen)
Also in the program, the mysterious disappearance of Middlebury College student Nick Garza. Garza has been missing for two weeks, with few clues to explain why and how he went missing. We talk with Addison Independent report Megan James about how the community is responding. (Listen) And Middlebury student Ken Redmon describes how he felt as the search for Garza enveloped the campus. (Listen)
Listener comments on the marijuana bill
Peter from Shelburne
I still fail to comprehend how the supposed "dangers" of marijuana are extrapolated to be greater than alcohol: the facts simply don't bear it out. The lieutenant governor can go on and on about how supposedly "dangerous" marijuana is, but his arguments will remain hypocritical, politicized hogwash until he can apply them consistently and without bias. Supporters of the status quo purport to be rational human beings, expecting us to respect their extreme stance when it is so biased.
Eben from Panton:
This debate on whether or not to legalize marijuana is out of touch with our society. People from all walks of life, all levels of profession enjoy the use of marijuana nationally and globally. We are using it in spite of this current legal double standard that allows alcohol and cigarettes and not pot. We will continue to enjoy it and show up for work to be productive members of your community. It is past time to legalize marijuana for adult usage.
Linden from Windsor:
I've never seen convincing statistics for any danger due to marijuana use apart from cancer risks and the risks inherent to engaging in contacts with the folks who sell the stuff. Note that the cancer risks are likely linked to
the smoking of unfiltered cigarettes. It is less addictive than alcohol or tabacco, for instance. In our town, there are constant rumors of known dealers who sell much more dangerous materials like oxycotin, meth, and cocaine. Would this measure free up resources to deal with these much more severe problems (these drugs are of known addiction risk, known long-term brain damage risk, and generally much more dangerous)?
Paula from Burlington:
1 oz. of marijuana is 30 cigarettes - it's not a tiny amount. When we consider decriminalizing marijuana we are sending the message to our young people that using marijuana is ok. In our 2007 Youth Risk Behavior 20 percent of Burlington 8-12th graders think it's ok to smoke cigarette, and 40 percent think it's ok to smoke marijuana. In other words they think it's better/healthier to smoke marijuana than it is to smoke cigarettes. Research shows that smoking one marijuana cigarette has many more health risks than smoking one tobacco. This is sending the total wrong message to our young people. They will take this debate and run with it just like they did medicinal marijuana."See there's nothing wrong with marijuana". Wrong message - wrong message!
Rachel from Stannard:
Question for Sen. Sears: Did your committee consider gradations of penalties based on age? You referenced Bill Clinton & George Bush, who, like a whole generation of which I am one, smoked dope in college and beyond and are functioning individuals who have made societial contributions, have families, etc. Why not consider age groups?
Richard from Newbury:
It would be instructive to provide listeners with a brief history of cannabis legalization in the United States.
Cannabis has not always been illegal, it just got on the way a bit, in the growth of our oil based economy...
Bruce from South Burlington:
If it is illegal to sell it, it should be illegal to posses it, in any amount. Our schools have all kinds of drug avoidance programs. This proposed change sends the message "It is illegal, but don't worry about that, you won't be prosecuted." The purported 'need' for this bill is the clogging of the courts with minor marijuana cases however State police and court representatives have already said this is not true. It would seem that those who smoke pot can't get it legalized but still want to smoke it without risk of penalty so they are throwing the 'clogged court' red herring at the Legislature.