There probably won’t ever be a politician who manages to get everything done that they want to during their time in office, just like there probably will never be a single political figure that everyone (or even close to everyone) agrees with. However, Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin has done quite a good job at getting the ball rolling as far as marijuana policy reform goes during his six years in office – the state came closer last year than any state has so far to legalizing cannabis for adult use without a voter initiative. While it ultimately died in the House, the efforts of those lawmakers did not go unseen and Shumlin was on board if the measure would have passed.
Now, as Governor Shumlin’s six year term comes to an end, he has decided to make one more effort to continue to push the change toward positive marijuana policy reform. In a Public Service Announcement he offered to pardon misdemeanor marijuana convictions that would be a ticketed offense under the state’s 2013 decriminalization law. It was later changed to convictions up to two ounces – because prior to the 2013 law there was no difference in charges, regardless if it was one ounce or two. They took applications all the way up to Christmas Day – and in the end received 460 applications for pardons.
“Decriminalization was a good first step in updating our outmoded drug laws,” Shumlin said. “It makes no sense that minor marijuana convictions should tarnish the lives of Vermonters indefinitely.”
Each of the applications will be reviewed individually and a thorough background check will be completed – anyone who applies who does not have felonies on their record along with the marijuana conviction and whose conviction falls under the qualifications for pardon will then be approved. It should only be a couple of weeks before hundreds of people who have faced issues because of their misdemeanor for something that over half of the U.S. doesn’t believe is a crime no longer have to check “yes” on any application asking about a criminal record.
In the last couple of years there has been a lot of progress when it comes to reducing the criminal charges usually associated with marijuana possession to a simple ticketed offense – no more harmful to your record than a speeding ticket. Last Christmas, President Obama pardoned nearly 100 people who had been imprisoned for drug offenses that would have resulted in a far less serious charge and/or sentencing now compared to when they were convicted. Now seeing Shumlin offer a similar pardon for those who have been convicted of something Vermont no longer sees as a crime is admirable and all states with decriminalization laws in place – or recreational laws – should consider doing the same.