Burlington says ‘nope’ to dope

The Burlington City Council voted last Tuesday against the ballot question that would decriminalize small quantities of marijuana possession locally. Backed by councilmen Ed Adrian and Timothy Ashe, the proposal failed 7-6, which means it will not be brought to voters for the Town Meeting Day elections in March. The measure was initially introduced as a local topic, then divided to allow the legislature to consider the issue. “It could come up again,” Adrian said. “We got a commitment from the council to entertain a discussion, on the local level, on how we might come up with other options, other than the criminal justice system.” Ashe said. “The council did not want to go to the voters because they feel [that] the state is going to take up the discussion.” “It is my view that the city of Burlington could act on decriminalization much more quickly with more of a uniformed voice from the public than the legislature,” Ashe said. Although Ashe said “it is an issue that affects the people in Vermont of all ages”, he says, “This is an idea that has been close to being discussed for 35 years. Thirty five years with no action.” Opponents on the topic, like Addison County State Attorney John Quinn, have been concerned over decriminalization because “we should be setting an example that people can get ahead by getting a good education, working hard and being productive,” Quinn said. In an article published by the Burlington Free Press, Quinn addresses the issue with questions like, “How many of Vermont’s youth would take up pot smoking if it were no longer against the law?” “I don’t think decriminalizing is really going to change anything. If people want to smoke pot, they’ll smoke pot. If people don’t want to smoke pot, they’re not going to smoke pot,” Adrian said. The Burlington Police Department issued an online statement saying, “[The Department] does not favor the “decriminalization” of marijuana or the removal of the possibility for offenders to be subject to criminal penalty for any level of marijuana possession,” but adds, “[W]e do favor the exploration of alternative civil penalties for low level marijuana possession.” “Small marijuana offenses are really the least of the troubles we have in society in terms of the crimes that are committed,” Adrian said. “Some people think a small quantity is a quarter ounce or a half ounce.” Adrian said. “Personally I think it should be legal completely, but I don’t think that as a society we’re willing to go that far that quickly.” Although the initial proposal failed, the legislature has not yet acted, giving hope to advocates of decriminalization. “For now, it won’t be for voters, locally, but cross your fingers for the legislature,” Ashe said.