Outgoing Vermont governor expected to issue pardons over pot

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — In his final days as the state’s chief executive, Gov. Peter Shumlin is expected to issue pardons to residents convicted of minor marijuana violations.

The Democrat, who was first elected in 2010, must issue the pardons before Thursday, when he turns the office over to his successor, Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

Shumlin is keeping busy until he leaves office.

“The governor came to office promising to do big things,” Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell said Monday. “He’s never shied away from trying to get difficult things done. And he’s not going to start now.”

Last month, Shumlin invited people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana before the state decriminalized it in 2013 to apply for pardons.

Almost 500 people applied.

When announcing he would take the applications for pardons, Shumlin said he wanted to use the power of his office’s pardoning power “to expedite our move to a saner drug policy and criminal justice system.”

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.

And on Tuesday, Shumlin’s lawyers will be appearing before the Vermont Supreme Court to argue he should be allowed to fill an upcoming vacancy.

In September, Justice John Dooley announced he would not seek another six years on the court when his current term expires in March. Shumlin had been expected to announce Dooley’s replacement before the new year, but Republicans sued and the court blocked Shumlin from making that appointment.

Since the Christmas Day deadline to apply for marijuana pardons, Shumlin’s staff has been doing background checks. Anyone with a violent criminal history won’t be pardoned.

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