Vermont Makes a Big Move Toward Legalization

The Green Mountain State got a little bit greener on Monday when the Vermont Senate Committee on Appropriations approved a bill to end marijuana prohibition and regulate marijuana for adult use.

The pending legislation is now set for a full Senate vote, and all indications suggest it will pass handily. The bill, S. 241, will make it legal for Vermont adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of weed and will establish an infrastructure for retail shops and licensed grow sites, though it will not yet allow at-home growing.

You know the War on Drugs is an abject failure when your state attorney general waves the white flag. Bill Sorrell (who has been seen on occasion wearing a tie-dyed necktie), along with two former AGs, penned a letter to the General Assembly, exhorting its members to do the right thing already.

“Instead of subsidizing gangs and cartels with a failed prohibition policy, we believe Vermont should focus on reducing the harms associated with marijuana and other drug use through prevention, education, treatment, and smart enforcement strategies," the letter stated. "We strongly believe that these goals can best be achieved through regulation, not prohibition.”

Last year, Sorrell predicted that prohibition in the state was coming to an end.

“Let me put it this way, I will be surprised if marijuana is not legalized in this next legislative session,” he said in September.

Freeing the green certainly has public support. Some 55 percent of Vermonters are for legalization (with only 32 percent opposed), according to the Castleton Polling Institute as reported by Vermont Public Radio this week.

Even the preacher class has expressed its support to free the green, as a gaggle of clergy members wrote to their senate with the good news.

“As those who teach compassion and love, we believe the harm associated with marijuana can best be minimized through a regulated system that emphasizes education, prevention, and treatment rather than punishment,” the presbyters wrote.

The bill is scheduled to go to the full Senate later this week, where the prospects for passage is good. The state’s House of Representatives is another story, as it is unclear how its 150 reps will vote.

If approved, guidelines on how to proceed will be hammered out this summer, but the new law would not take effect before January 2018. Vermont would become the first state to legalize solely through legislation, as opposed to voter initiatives.

(Photo Courtesy of the Washington Post)

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