The Green Mountain State might get a lot greener. Vermont is poised to make marijuana history, as it has the chance to become the first state where politicians legalize it instead of the people.
To be clear, by legalizing recreational marijuana—a name I legitimately haven’t heard anyone use outside of a courtroom or news piece in years—Vermont would follow four states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska) and Washington, DC, but those were general elections. Vermont’s bill, known as S. 241, just has to keep coursing through the government chain.
While not an easy push, it’s not exactly a difficult one either. The Senate approved the measure by a close preliminary 16-13 vote, which was followed by a final approval of 17-12 the next day. Now the House can potentially follow suit with approval before Gov. Peter Shumlin—an avid supporter of the bill—can sign it into law.
SHUMLIN: “I am proud that the Senate took lessons learned from states that have gone before us, asked the right questions and passed an incredibly thoughtful, common-sense plan that will bring out of the shadows an activity that one in seven Vermonters engage in on a regular basis. The shadows of prohibition have prevented our state from taking rational steps to address marijuana use in our state.”
This would be a long time coming, given that Vermont—the land of Bernie Sanders, Ben & Jerry, and no billboards whatsoever—has considered the big move for years.
In fact, in 2015, RAND released Considering Marijuana Legalization Insights for Vermont and Other Jurisdictions, a 218-page report explaining what legalization would mean for the state and how it could work. It also discovered that the state already has one of the highest use rates in the nation—roughly 80,000 residents of its nearly 630,000 population. Vermont passed on several suggestive points of the report, which hinted at avoiding treating the budding industry—boom, still got it—akin to how the alcohol and tobacco industries work.
So this would mean that, come 2018 (if passed, of course), the Vermont bill would make up to one ounce of weed legal for citizens 21 and older. From a broader perspective, it means another step toward a more sensible consideration of weed. Then let’s see what happens in California, Maine and Massachusetts, where legalization votes loom.
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