Support Growing For Marijuana Legalization: Will Vermont Be The Next Pot-Friendly State?

Legislators in Vermont are currently right in the middle of debating a marijuana legalization bill. Last month, the state’s Senate passed S.241 — a bill that would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 or older.

The bill, which easily passed with a vote of 17 to 12, will now head to state House legislation beginning this week. If passed, it will place a 25 percent sales tax on the marijuana product and it will only be sold at shops permitted by the state. Revenues would go to law enforcement and drug treatment programs.

Right now, support for marijuana legalization in the US is the highest it has been in almost 50 years, according to an October Gallup poll.

Laura Subin, director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, has been fighting relentlessly for the legalization of marijuana in the Green Mountain state over the past few years and is finally glad to see the bill make its way through the Senate and now on to the state House.

According to Subin, support for the bill continues to “pour in with large numbers joining the Coalition, liking our Facebook page and wanting to stay informed with updates and alerts from the Coalition.”

gallup poll
[Image via Gallup]

While the support of marijuana legalization by the residents of Vermont is important to groups like the VCRM, this legalization process will ultimately be up to the state’s lawmakers. Unlike Colorado or Washington, where the marijuana legalization process was left to the voters, Vermont would be the first state legislature to legalize the drug.

The main difference between the two legalization processes essentially boils down to the speed at which the drug would actually be made available. While Colorado residents could purchase marijuana just months after voters approved it, the marijuana legalization bill in Vermont would not allow residents to purchase the product for more than a year after it passes.

Matt Simon, head of the Marijuana Policy Project of New England, is “happy with the bill and just as happy that Vermont is the first serious attempt to legalize marijuana via lawmakers and not voters.”

Vermont state representative Chris Pearson, who penned a House version of the bill, is also satisfied with the current legislation.

“The Senate bill would move the state towards a legalized environment for recreational cannabis. We would tax and regulate it and treat it like we do alcohol and tobacco. It’s not as far-reaching as the bill that I and others introduced, but it’s a big, big step in the right direction.”

The difference between Pearson’s version of the bill and the one up for debate at the state House is that the latter will regulate marijuana legalization in a much stricter manner. For instance, the bill will not legalize home cultivation, and penalties for possession above the one-ounce limit will not be reduced. It also calls for strict, in-state funding only, and state-mandated drug education programs for public schools.

marijuana and gavel
[Photo by Matt Benoit/Shutterstock]
Subin expressed her disappointment in the tight restrictions placed in S.241, but remains optimistic since it’s ultimately one step closer to marijuana legalization for Vermont residents.

“Many, certainly including myself, believe that these further steps are critical to genuine criminal justice system reform. We are glad that the version of the bill that passed the Senate at least included an accelerated timeframe for considering home grow by the commission that would be created by the bill and hope that cultivation of a few plants would be legalized by the time the rest of the legislation would go into effect in 2018.”

Now, residents of Vermont must patiently wait for the House to vote on the issue. With over 80,000 regular cannabis users and progressive state legislation, Vermont could easily become the next state to say “yes” on marijuana legalization.

[Photo by Teri Virbickis/Shutterstock]

Share this article: Support Growing For Marijuana Legalization: Will Vermont Be The Next Pot-Friendly State?
More from Inquisitr