Governor Peter Shumlin reached out to the people of Vermont who had been convicted of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana and offered them full pardons as one of his final acts in office.
Schumlin told the media, “Today I am announcing an effort using the governor’s pardoning power to expedite our move to saner drug policy and criminal justice system. Decriminalization was a good first step in updating our outmoded drug laws. It makes no sense that minor marijuana convictions should tarnish the lives of Vermonters indefinitely.”
According to Vermont criminal justice system statistics, thousands of citizens are eligible for the pardon, however, only 450 actually applied.
By Jan. 4, out of the 450 people who had applied for the pardon, 200 had been processed.
“While attitudes and laws about marijuana use are rapidly changing, there is still a harmful stigma associated with it,” Governor Shumlin continued. “My hope was to help as many individuals as I could overcome that stigma and the very real struggles that too often go along with it.”
Anyone who did not get their application in on time still has a chance for redemption. Under a 2013 law, which Shumlin used as the basis for his idea, those with cannabis convictions can still apply to have their cases expunged.
Marijuana arrests make up the majority of drug arrests in the US. On average, 1.5 to 2 million people are arrested each year for drug violations. More than half of those arrests are for simple possession or selling of cannabis. “We’ve got folks who got charged for an ounce or less of marijuana in a different era when we were running a failed war on drugs. Let’s give those folks the opportunity to have a clean record,” Shumlin told the press.
Marijuana laws have become lenient in most American states, however, there are still those who have a political interest in maintaining marijuana prohibition. The DEA continues to publish arguably false information on marijuana, and continues to raid state approved and sanctioned businesses in the name of the failed drug war. Attorney Jeff Sessions gives contradictory statements to the press, in one breath stating that he respects the state’s rights to govern themselves, however, they should not have the right to decide their own marijuana laws.
Cannabis is now legal for medicinal use in over 30 states, with recreational adult use legal in 8. The overwhelming sentiment is that marijuana is one of the most beneficial plants for use in medicine ever discovered and that the suppression of it was for political purposes only. Despite the words of Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration, more and more politicians like Governor Shumlin are fighting back and taking logical steps to unwind the damage caused by years of prohibition.
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