Marijuana prohibition in Vermont could be terminal – possibly with less than six months to live – as the state legislature seems to be ferociously gunning to become the first group of bipartisan lawmakers in American history with enough sense to pull the plug on the antiquated policies that makes it a criminal offense to capitalize on the cannabis plant.
Just weeks after Governor Peter Shumlin announced during his State of the State address that he was fully prepared to end the War on Weed in the Green Mountain, the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee put their stamp of approval on a bill aimed at establishing a taxed and regulated cannabis trade. The proposal, which seeks to create a system of retails sales, was approved last week in a vote of 4 to 1, catapulting the measure into the next phase of legislative redemption.
The bill (S.241) is now headed to the Senate Finance Committee, where all of the tax business will be decided. Some anticipate that while the proposal stands a relatively good chance at making it through the full Senate, there will be snags in the House – a force that could prevent the measure from landing on the governor’s desk for final approval.
Nevertheless, Governor Shumlin has applauded the committee for throwing their balls over their shoulders in an effort to advance this bill to the next level.
“I want to thank Senator Sears for his leadership and the entire Judiciary Committee for their hard work on this bill,” Governor Shumlin said in a statement. “This legislation meets the principles I outlined in my State of the State Address and I believe it provides the framework for our state to cautiously, step-by-step and in the Vermont way end the failed war on drugs policy of marijuana prohibition.
This debate is about whether we can take a smarter approach towards marijuana, which is already widely available and used by tens of thousands of Vermonters,” Shumin explained. “Promoting prevention, keeping marijuana out of the hands of kids, getting rid of illegal drug dealers, and doing a better job responding to impaired drivers already on our roads, I believe this legislation is a huge improvement on the failed war on drugs. I look forward to working with the Legislature as they continue to debate this issue.”
In its current form, the bill would legalize a recreational cannabis market in a manner similar to what is currently underway in Colorado. However, while it would allow adults 21 and over to purchase weed from state licensed dispensaries, it would not permit home cultivation. Also, the bill initially contained language that would allow the existence of cannabis cafes — that has since been stricken from the measure.
"It's a product that many adults enjoy for the same reasons that many adults enjoy consuming alcohol," Matt Simon of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana told HIGH TIMES in a written statement. "While no substance is entirely harmless, the evidence is pretty clear that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Adults who choose to consume marijuana should be able to purchase it legally and safely from licensed stores that test and label their products. They shouldn't be forced to seek it out in an illegal market where they might be exposed to other more harmful substances."
If all goes according to plan, Vermont’s legal cannabis industry could be fully operational by the beginning of 2018.