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Before Leaving Office, Vermont Governor Pardons Nearly 200 People with Minor Marijuana Convictions

The outgoing governor of Vermont issued pardons to nearly 200 people convicted of simple marijuana possession before leaving office.

Before leaving office, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont pardoned 192 of the approximately 460 people convicted of misdemeanor marijuana convictions, the New York Times reports. Gov. Shumlin had promised in early December to consider forgiving as many as 17,000 Vermonters that had been convicted of possessing marijuana and requested those interested apply by Christmas.

“While attitudes and laws about marijuana use are rapidly changing, there is still a harmful stigma associated with it,” said Gov. Shumlin, in a statement. “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.”

Possession of one ounce or less was decriminalized in Vermont in 2013, but before then thousands of people in Vermont were charged with misdemeanor possession crimes.

By expunging marijuana possession convictions from their record, the governor prevents the employment, college and international traveling limitations that can arise for those that have been convicted of simple drug charges. Those with convictions are also unable to become caretakers for family members, obtain professional licensees, or serve as chaperones on school trips.

“A minor marijuana possession charge should not be an anchor that holds back an individual from getting a good job or going about their life,” Gov. Shumlin added.

All but 15 of those pardoned live in Vermont. Most are under the age of 40, but they range in age from 22 to 69. Background checks were completed on all who applied, and pardons were limited to those without felony convictions or violent criminal histories. In addition, those found guilty of driving under the influence or reckless driving were not considered.

DEA marijuana illegal

Gov. Shumlin noted in his statement that part of his basis for the pardons included a 2013 state discrimination law, which allows for an expungement process for simple possession convictions.

“It’s a cumbersome process. It takes a lot of time. I think a lot of folks have hesitated to do it because of the bureaucracy I’m hoping this will be a simpler one,” the governor said last month.

The governor also said that issuing the pardons was “the right thing to do,” and was intended to help create “a more sane drug policy.”

“Vermont should follow the many states that are legalizing and regulating the use of marijuana and put to an end the incredible failure that is the War on Drugs,” he said in the statement.

Gov. Shumlin was succeeded by Republican Phil Scott, former Lieutenant Governor, who has said that he supports the pardons. Although he’s urged legislators to practice patience and be cautious, Gov. Scott has said that he would be open to considering marijuana legalization in the future. Vermont is one of the three states we believe are likely legalize adult use cannabis soon.

The 2013 state discrimination law also allows Vermonters with simple drug convictions that didn’t apply for a pardon by the deadline to still do so, the New York Times reports, through a court process.

You can read the entire New York Times report, here.

Learn more about Vermont’s cannabis laws by visiting our education page.