MONTPELIER, VT – According to a Public Policy Polling survey released today, a majority of Vermont voters are in favor of removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Under current Vermont law, the penalty for possession of marijuana is up to six months in jail and up to a $500 fine. Of those polled, 63% supported replacing criminal penalties for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana with a civil infraction and a fine of up to $150, with no threat of arrest or jail.
The poll also reported that a majority of Vermonters would support politicians who also supported making this change. When asked if they would be more likely to vote for a legislator that voted to replace criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, 52% reported that they would be more likely to support such a lawmaker. This is particularly relevant in light of a bill currently being considered in the Vermont House, HB 427, which closely mirrors the reform described to respondents in the poll.
Part of the reason behind support for this bill is the perception of danger associated with marijuana as compared to alcohol. Of those polled, 74% responded that marijuana is as safe or safer than alcohol. This perception, which is supported by many scientific studies, only serves to highlight the discrepancy between marijuana and alcohol penalties.
“Vermont voters overwhelmingly believe marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol and that people who possess a small amount should not face up to six months in jail and a criminal conviction,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It’s time for legislative leadership to bring this sensible proposal to a vote, so that Vermont can focus its limited criminal justice resources on crime with actual victims.”
The results of the poll can be viewed here: mpp.org/VTpoll.