MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday invited residents convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana before the state decriminalized it to apply for pardons.
Shumlin, a Democrat, said applications will be accepted now through Christmas. He said he’s using the governor’s pardoning power “to expedite our move to a saner drug policy and criminal justice system.”
The 2013 decriminalization law, under which those found with up to an ounce of cannabis get something akin to a traffic ticket, “was a good first step in updating our outmoded drug laws,” Shumlin said. He added, “It makes no sense that minor marijuana convictions should tarnish the lives of Vermonters indefinitely.”
Shumlin this year backed legislation that would have legalized small amounts of cannabis for recreational use in the state, and it passed the Senate but died in the House.
“When you look at the Vermonters who are sitting out there with criminal records because they had an ounce or less of marijuana — could have happened in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s — there’s thousands of them,” he said.
He said those people would be able to go to the governor’s office website, at governor.vermont.gov, and find on its front page a link to an application for a pardon. He estimated there could be between 10,000 and 17,000 people who might be eligible for pardons.
Shumlin said he will consider pardoning convictions of marijuana possession up to 1 ounce for people who don’t have violent criminal convictions or felonies on their records.