Vermont Decriminalizes Marijuana; Is Public Backing for Enforcement Waning?


Vermont this week moved to decriminalize the possession of marijuana for quantities up to an ounce, replacing potential prison time for arrests with fines, NPR reports. Gov. Peter Shumlin said, “This legislation allows our courts and law enforcement to focus their limited resources more effectively to fight highly addictive opiates such as heroin and prescription drugs that are tearing apart families and communities.” There’s little vocal anti-pot government outcry, no temperance movement analog for cannabis. Recent polls have found that a majority of Americans think marijuana should be legalized. Mona Lynch, a professor at the University of California, Irvine who studies the criminal justice system, says that stereotypes of marijuana usage in popular culture don’t come across as very threatening. “There’s not a lot of uproar around marijuana [as] a crushing problem,” she says. A new report that marijuana arrests are a higher proportion of overall drug arrests reflects that police departments are being subsidized with federal dollars to stop drugs, but the crack epidemic has waned, Lynch says.

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