Decriminalize the convicted
Since Vermont is one of the 17 states to (finally) decriminalize possession of marijuana, one could say that the Legislature and governor should be patted on the back for doing the right thing.
But wait. Not so fast.
Is decriminalizing marijuana really an admission of guilt and culpability in criminalizing people who were not criminals before?
There cannot be a great difference in marijuana use today than five, 10 or 40 years ago. If it’s decriminalized now, that suggests there was no legitimate reason for criminalizing marijuana in the first place.
Therein lies the tragedy of marijuana criminal laws. What it means is that the majority of people who are now or have been in prison for marijuana criminal charges were unjustly incarcerated.
It seems to me that a call for release, reparations and redress for most marijuana prisoners is a logical conclusion, especially in light of the growing legalization of marijuana efforts in this country.
After all, somebody has to pay for the harm that was done to millions of Americans. Indeed, the criminalizing of nonviolent marijuana users was uncalled for in the first place. Moreover, the sentences handed out were unnecessary and far exceeded any reasonable bounds of jurisprudence in their exercise of cruel and unusual punishment.
It is important that we come to grips with these disgraceful deeds by legislatures, members of the media and the public who unjustly supported the stigmatization, criminalization and incarceration of a class people based on inherently harmless, victimless behavior.