Vermont May Legalize Marijuana Use
Vermont may soon join the growing number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana. They could also become the first state ever to legalize weed via legislation rather than through voter choice.
Senate Bill 95 was introduced to the Vermont state legislator on Tuesday. This bill, if passed, would legalize the personal possession, use, and sale of marijuana for Vermont residents and even nonresidents.
This isn’t revolutionary news or even a revolutionary bill. Medical marijuana has been legal in Vermont for over a decade. Over twenty other states have legal medical marijuana. Four states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska) have legalized pot for personal use. Washington DC legalized it, though sale still remains banned under District law.
What makes Vermont’s situation unique is that they’re considering legalization through direct legislation, not voter referendum. This is an unprecedented move in American politics. It’s also one that, according to State Senator David Zuckerman, could make the legalization process longer.
News outlets report, “…that while a vote to legalize could take place as early as this year, he [Zuckerman] expects discussion of the bill could push the vote to 2016” (Huffington Post).
What Legal Weed in Vermont Would Look Like
If Vermont does indeed make recreational marijuana legal, what would that look like? How would it compare to, say, Colorado? Would the “pot infrastructure” be a mess like in Washington?
Well, it doesn’t appear so. If Vermont passes SB95, it would legalize the sale, use, and possession of weed for adults over the age of twenty-one. It would allow state residents to possess no more than an ounce.
It would also allow residents to grow up to nine plants, with only two plants being mature at any given time. Residents would only be able to grow marijuana indoors in secure facilities. So no outdoors pot gardens. Also off limits would be smoking in public.
Even people who aren’t residents of Vermont could enjoy the, ahem, fruits of residents’ labor. Nonresidents would be allowed to buy up to seven grams of marijuana from a licensed store. They would not be able to leave the state carrying any items containing marijuana.
The potential law would also benefit Vermont itself. There would be a tax of $40 per ounce on “traditional” marijuana (flowers and buds). There would be a tax of $15 per ounce on other products (edibles, hash, etc.) and there would be a $25 tax on all immature plants sold.
Of the millions these taxes would generate, 40% would be used for public services. These include, though are not limited to, services like addiction treatment, medical marijuana research, educational programs, and police. This could be a Godsend to a city that’s in the grip of the continued heroin and painkiller epidemic.
Finally, something called the “Marijuana Control Board” would oversee the above regulations to make sure everyone is abiding by state law.
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Vermont’s History of Marijuana Use
Despite the uniqueness of SB95, Vermont has a pretty long history of marijuana use. This is true of illegal consumption and medical use.
Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2003. In those twelve years, there’s been a wealth of information gathered about the various effects, medical or otherwise, of pot.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has the following to say about recreational pot use in his state,
Let’s remember, we have this conversation and we pretend that you can’t get marijuana now. In the real world, folks, if you want to get marijuana in Vermont, we’re in Lala Land if we’re pretending you can’t. The question is how do we move to a smarter approach that doesn’t promote addiction, that doesn’t promote abuse and really accepts the reality” (Huffington Post).
Gov. Shumlin’s sentiment is backed up by a report from the RAND Corporation, a legal policy research group. RAND released a report that estimated Vermont residents consumed between fifteen and twenty five tons of marijuana in 2014 alone. That’s a lot of smoking!
That much marijuana is valued at between $125 and $225 million. Remember, that’s illegal sales. If weed were legalized, that would amount to between twenty and seventy-five million dollars in tax revenue.
It’s clear to see there may be some benefits to legalizing recreational marijuana in Vermont. That’s true whether it’s legalized through state legislation or voter referendum. Still, what about the voters? What do the people of Vermont want?
Well, according to a 2014 poll, 57% of voters were in favor of legal pot. It seems the people have spoken. Let’s see if Vermont lawmakers agree.