Two lawmakers are expected to introduce bills that would legalize marijuana in Vermont. If either bill passes, it will become the first legalization laws enacted by a legislative body.
According to an anticipated bill from Sen. David Zuckerman (P/D-Chittenden County), individuals aged 21 and up would have the ability to “to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, two mature marijuana plants, seven immature plants, and marijuana produced by those plants in a secure, indoor facility.” On the flip side, the bill will prevent public consumption, give individual municipalities the option to veto marijuana retailers, and grant landlords authority to prohibit possession.
Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington) is set to introduce a similar bill in the state’s House.
The underlying premise of the two bills is that legal marijuana sales can actually boost the Green Mountain State’s economy — instead of millions of dollars going to an unregulated market every year. Zuckerman points to the $125–225 million that is spent, annually, on marijuana. Under his bill, revenue from sales would go directly to the Department of Public Safety for monitoring retailers, as well as pot research. Additionally, 60 percent of sales taxes would be funneled into the state’s general fund, with the rest spent on criminal justice reforms, education campaigns about drug use, and assistance for substance abusers.
Zuckerman estimates that 80,000 out of 626,562 Vermont residents use pot.
But the anticipated bills already face opposition from state police, who argue that legalized drug use poses a threat to public safety. Nevertheless, Zuckerman hopes to play the long game, contending that the bill’s introduction is really setting the stage for a greater push in 2016.
As Vermont eyes the two bills, lawmakers are exploring marijuana legislation in other states as well. However, many emphasize decriminalization, medical marijuana use, and ballot measures to gauge public opinion of pot initiatives — as opposed to legalization. Places that permit pot use, or are expected to do so in 2015, relied on ballot initiatives to secure legalization.
According to a recent poll, 52 percent of Americans are pro-legalization.