Vermont is well on its way to making history by becoming the first state in the nation to end marijuana prohibition by way of the state legislature. On Wednesday, the Senate voted 16 to 13 in favor of a proposal aimed at legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, one that would create a taxed and regulated system that would allow weed to be sold in retail outlets all over the state. The bill must now survive another Senate vote before moving on to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Although there was some opposition to the bill (S.241)—some lawmakers argued it would destroy Vermont’s image, while others worried it did not take the concept of legal weed far enough—supporters were pleasantly surprised to learn the issue received an impressive 16 votes.
Interestingly, not all of the opposing forces stood against legalization, some simply did not cast a favorable vote because they believed the bill was missing a crucial element by not allowing home cultivation. On the flip side, other supporters threatened to vote against the measure if amendments were made that would allow residents to engage in home grows.
Governor Peter Shumlin applauded the Senate for doing the right thing by taking a huge step towards bringing down prohibition in the Green Mountain state.
“I want to thank the Senate for their courage in voting to end the failed War on Drugs policy of marijuana prohibition,” Shumlin said. “When this debate began a month and a half ago, there were many who said it had no chance of passage in either chamber.”
Reports indicate that the Senate will likely vote again on the proposal sometime later this afternoon. If it passes, it will head to the House to begin the process all over again.
Drug Policy expert Tom Angell, founder of the Marijuana Majority, believes Vermont is poised to bring pot legalization to fruition, as long as the bill does not get hung up in the House. He also believes that if the state legislature manages to pull this off, it will create some serious momentum for similar efforts to happen in other states.
"If the House follows the Senate and sends this bill to Gov. Shumlin's desk to be signed into law, it will mark the beginning of an important new phase of our movement,” Angell told HIGH TIMES. “Until now, all of our legalization victories have been achieved at the ballot box. But what's happening in Vermont signals that politicians have gotten the message that voters want marijuana law reform, and it means that we're going to see lawmakers in other states following suit soon. In particular, look to my home state of Rhode Island to be the next to legalize, possibly even before voters in other states get a chance to see ballot measures this November. But even if not, I expect to see Rhode Island lawmakers acting quickly next year after voters in neighboring Massachusetts end prohibition this fall."
Mike Adams is a contributing writer for HIGH TIMES. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook.com/mikeadams73.
(Photo Courtesy of VPR)