Nearly 200 people had minor marijuana convictions wiped from their records Tuesday when Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin issued pardons to those who he said were still facing stigma and “very real struggles” that often accompany drug convictions.
Shumlin, who leaves office Thursday, had urged people convicted of minor marijuana crimes prior to when the state decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2013 to apply for the pardons.
His office received about 450 applications.
“My hope was to help as many individuals as I could overcome that stigma and the very real struggles that too often go along with it. Vermont should follow the many states that are legalizing and regulating the use of marijuana and put to an end the incredible failure that is the War on Drugs.”
Shumlin said drug convictions can make it harder to find jobs, apply to college or even chaperone children on school trips. Thousands of Vermonters were charged with misdemeanor possession crimes before such possession was decriminalized in 2013.
The list of pardons, all for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, was released Tuesday. People with violent criminal histories who applied or those also convicted of driving under the influence or reckless driving did not receive pardons.
Shumlin’s office said that during his six years in office he has issued 208 pardons, more than any governor in state history.
It’s not just marijuana. On Saturday, Shumlin issued 10 pardons for people convicted of various felonies and misdemeanors, including the son of former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro and the son of former U.S. Rep. Richard Mallary.
Mary Albyn, 65, a health care worker from Pawlet, the oldest person on the list to receive a pardon, said Tuesday she was grateful. She was arrested at the U.S. Canadian border in 1973 with a small amount of marijuana in her mother’s car after a camping trip to Quebec.
It has never held her back from getting jobs in health care, but prospective employers would mention it after doing a background check, she said.
“They would bring me into a room and close the door and say ‘are you aware?’ That’s how the conversation would start,” Albyn said. “I would always say it’s my status symbol as an old hippie, just to lighten up the situation, saying it’s not a big deal.”
Nevertheless, she didn’t know if she’d get the pardon, which she applied for after the governor’s office put out the word that Shumlin would issue the pardons.
Perry Browe, 57, of East Wallingford, said he was convicted of possessing a small amount of marijuana four or five years ago and he doesn’t have any other violations on his record.
“I’m pushing 60, I shouldn’t have anything like that on my record,” said Browe.