Gubernatorial Candidates Differ On Marijuana Decriminalization

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Governor Peter Shumlin and GOP challenger Randy Brock have very different views about whether marijuana should be decriminalized. Shumlin says changing the law would allow police to focus on other, more important drug issues. Brock says Shumlin’s position sends a bad message to young people at a time when teen marijuana use in the state is the highest in the country.

Last week, Governor Peter Shumlin phoned the director of NORML – a national group that favors the legalization of marijuana – to seek a campaign contribution, and the group responded with a $2,000 donation. GOP gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock says it’s highly inappropriate for Shumlin to be seeking money from this organization.

“In accepting money from NORML he’s supporting legalization because that’s the mission of the organization and they view decriminalization as simply a step toward that ultimate goal,” Brock said.

Brock says Shumlin’s plan to decriminalize marijuana sends a terrible message to young people throughout the state.

“I absolutely do not support having draconian penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. But I do believe that having the law as we have it right now is much better than having a reduced set of penalties that send the message to youth that this is ok. And that is the message that I think he would be sending.”

Shumlin is vacationing this week in Canada. But his manager for the 2012 campaign, Alex MacLean, says Shumlin is taking a common sense approach to this issue

McLean commented, “The governor believes strongly that we must be tough on crime and smart on crime. And most Vermonters agree that decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana allows us to better prioritize law enforcement’s resources, makes common sense and saves taxpayers dollars.”

MacLean added Shumlin does not support the legalization of marijuana at this time.

“Legalization is not something that’s within the governor’s scope of authority. It’s actually something that has to be dealt with at the federal level. So the governor believes that we should be focusing our efforts in Vermont on decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.”

Shumlin urged the Legislature to pass a decriminalization bill during the 2012 session but the effort was strongly opposed by House Speaker Shap Smith. However, Smith says he is willing to hold public hearings on this subject next session.

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