Vermont House and Senate leaders are set to pass a measure to automatically expunge criminal records for possession of two ounces or less of cannabis, VT Digger reports. The plan would also decriminalize possession up to two ounces – currently, only possession of up to one ounce is legal under the state’s legalization law.
The proposals would effectively expand the state’s legalization law and comes as the Legislature is attempting to come to an agreement on a deal to allow taxed-and-regulated sales which were not included in the 2018 reforms.
Rep. Maxine Grad (D), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee noted that people of color are disproportionately harmed by cannabis charges. Following the passage of the adult-use law, Chittenden and Windsor counties held “expungement days” to help people complete petitions to wipe the cannabis-related charges from their criminal records.
“Criminal records are a barrier to employment, serving in the military, student loans, housing, and it’s very important to help folks with these criminal records get justice and clean their records.” – Grad to VT Digger
Sen. Dick Sears (D), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee called the reforms a priority. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D) – who has so far impeded progress for rolling out a cannabis marketplace in the state – said she is “totally supportive” of the expungement measure.
Critics of the bill to create a cannabis industry in Vermont have said the measure does not go far enough in addressing the racial disparities of the ‘War on Drugs.’ Supporters of the bill contend that the law would require the Cannabis Control Board to prioritize licenses for minority- and women-owned businesses.
Earlier this year, both chambers approved a bill to legalize sales; however, lawmakers were unable to come to a compromise on a final version of the bill, which ultimately stalled its progress.