The Vermont State Senate just passed a bill that will now go to the House of Representatives, the bill legalizes marijuana for recreational use. This vote should take place at any time during this legislative session, so this bill has to be approved by May. If the bill is approved then it will almost definitely be signed by Governor Peter Shumlin who is an ardent supporter of the legalization bill. “Under the status quo, marijuana use is widespread, Vermonters have little difficulty procuring it for personal use, and the shadows of prohibition make it nearly impossible to address key issues like prevention, keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors, and dealing with those driving under the influence who are already on Vermont’s roads. The system has failed. The question for us is how do we deal with that failure. Vermont can take a smarter approach that regulates marijuana in a thoughtful way, and this bill provides a framework for us to do that,” Gov. Shumlin said.
The framework for legalization has already been planned out by Gov. Shumlin and Richard Sears, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Their model for regulated sales would go into effect by 2018, and it calls for a 25 percent sales tax. The state would comply with all other states in not allowing recreational sales to people under 21 years old. If passed, the bill legalizes personal possession for up to an ounce of cannabis, and allows 10-20 cultivator licenses with 20-40 retailer licenses by July 1, 2018. However, this only legalizes the sale of actual marijuana flower, so concentrates still won’t be sold in stores. In fact, the original framework even prohibited home-growing, but then Senator Rebecca Balint withdrew her support until home-growing was legalized in the bill.
Time will only tell whether Vermont passes legalization, but it seems likely at the moment, especially in a liberal-leaning state such as Vermont.
This bill has drawn a fair share of opposition, most notably the Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott who is running against Gov. Shumlin next year. His stance against cannabis legalization threatens to destroy any progress made in Vermont. “In my opinion, this bill is as much about the money as it is about ending a failed prohibition, and this major policy shift should not be about money and commercialization… I therefore do not support this proposal at this time,” Scott said.
Time will only tell whether Vermont passes legalization, but it seems likely at the moment, especially in a liberal-leaning state such as Vermont. If so, then history will be made as Vermont becomes the first state to legalize through legislature. This might not seem like a big victory, but it symbolizes a shift in attitude among local and state governments. The authority of a state deciding to legalize will be recognized even in the federal government, and it may help to sway some attitudes in Congress. Now, they might start to have second thoughts as they see it’s not just the common people that want to legalize, state governments are now voicing similar ideas.