Outgoing Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has barely a week left in office, and he intends to put his time to good use by pardoning minor pot convictions.
“As governor, I’ve been trying to lead a more sane drug policy,” said the Democratic governor, who has been in office since 2011.
As his days as governor come to an end, Shumlin is mulling over hundreds of applications for pardons for small amounts of weed convictions, which he offered earlier this month to people not otherwise charged with felonies or other crimes.
“It could have happened in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s. There are thousands of them,” said Shumlin. “We’ve got folks who got charged for an ounce or less of marijuana in a different era when we were running a failed War on Drugs. Let’s give those folks the opportunity to have a clean record.”
Shumlin announced on December 8 that people could to go to his website and apply before December 25 for the Christmas pardon.
Now that the time has lapsed, Shumlin’s office received 460 applications in that two-week period, spokesperson Scott Coriell told WCAX News.
The governor’s staff is working with other agencies, including the Vermont Crime Information Center, to review each application.
Shumlin will likely issue the pardons next week, Coriell said. He added that they didn’t expect to “have any issues processing all of the applications” by the time Shumlin leaves office on January 5.
Possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized in Vermont in 2013.
If you were arrested today for the same offense, you would get the equivalent of a traffic ticket. Vermont’s decriminalization bill also created an expungement law, allowing people to apply to have their records scrubbed.
But the governor, who has pushed for full legalization, calls that process cumbersome and time-consuming. He believes this pardon is the fairest way to right old wrongs.
“As we see legalization happening in Massachusetts and Maine and a number of other states, you have to ask the question, if it’s going to be legal to buy in so many states now across America, why would we still be punishing the folks that got convicted for an ounce or less, you know, many years ago,” Shumlin said earlier this month.
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