The bill also makes legal small amounts of hash and possession of paraphernalia, but leaves crimes in place for sales and cultivation.
“The public’s attitude toward marijuana is changing in Vermont and around the nation,” said Matt Simon with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Most people agree that simply possessing a substance less harmful than alcohol should not warrant potentially life-altering criminal penalties.”
According to the current version of the Senate Proposal of H.200 on the Vermont legislative site, the Senate approved making possession of up to one ounce of flowers and five grams of hash a civil offense on par with a traffic ticket.
Those over 21 would be let go with a $200 fine, while people under 21 would have to undergo drug abuse counseling in addition to fines. Additional infractions would increase the fine amount to $300 for the second offense and $500 for a third offense.
The bill also adjusts sentencing for people found guilty of possessing more than one ounce to no more than six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Vermont joints a number of other states with decriminalized or lessened marijuana penalties, including Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island, Nevada, North Carolina, Alaska, Colorado and Washington.
The bill now goes back to the House, where any changes will have to be approved. If they can reach a compromise, the bill would go to Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is expected to sign the legislation into law. The decriminalization would go into effect on July 1.