Vermont could be the next state to legalize marijuana. And if it does, it will be a big deal for more reasons than the obvious fact that there will be yet another state where adults can legally use cannabis.
If Vermont legalizes marijuana, it will be the first state to reach such a decision entirely through the legislative process rather than by moving through the course of a popular vote.
The current bill calling for the legalization of marijuana in Vermont is sponsored by Senators Jeanette K. White and Joe Benning.
The bill would allow adults 21 years and older to purchase and use marijuana. Edibles would not be authorized in the state, and people would not be allowed to grow their cannabis.
It also calls for a 25 percent tax on all marijuana sales, with much of that money being used to fund drug law enforcement and drug education programs.
If the bill passes, the new laws will go into effect in 2018.
So far, there seems to be significant support for the idea. Vermont’s Governor, Peter Shumlin, has been very open about his support of legalizing marijuana.
Earlier this year, in his State of the State Address, he said, “The outdated War on Drugs has also failed, and there is no greater example than our nation’s marijuana laws.”
He then called on state lawmakers to find a way to “thoughtfully and carefully” legalize marijuana.
Since his speech, the state appears to be on track to accomplish Shumlin’s goals.
The current bill was approved by the state Senate in February. It now needs approval from the House of Representatives.
Lawmakers in the House are set to take up the issue this month. They have until the end of May when the current legislative session comes to a close, to make their decision.
If no decision has been reached by that deadline, the bill would be delayed.
A poll conducted last month found that the majority of people living in Vermont support legalization. One in eight Vermonters already uses marijuana illegally.
“If it’s one in eight, to me that tells me that we need to change, that society, for the most part, is accepting it,” said Sheriff Keith Clark, who oversees Windham County, Vermont.
Although the bill has so far had success, there are also many lawmakers who oppose it. When it passed the Senate, it only did so on a tight 16-13 vote.
“Many of our members are opposed to this proposal, and I don’t know that it can be changed enough for them to change their minds,” said Representative Donald Turner.
“I don’t feel there is a good argument for legalizing it at this point.”