Debate Continues Over Recreational Marijuana Legalization in Vermont
Currently, Vermont is one of 23 U.S. states that has made marijuana legal — but only for medical purposes.
But with California and Washington state going an extra step by legalizing marijuana for recreational use as well, the debate over whether or not Vermont’s marijuana laws should have provisions for legal recreational use has gained momentum.
According to a January 7 Rutland Herald article, an organization has even emerged — Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana — which hopes to push legislation that will regulate and tax recreational marijuana through the state’s government. The coalition held a news conference on January 6, the day before the state’s legislative session.
The movement’s supporters say that efforts to stamp out illegal recreational use have largely been unsuccessful, and that taxing and regulating marijuana would give much-needed revenue to the state in addition to creating jobs and making the state safer.
“Regulating marijuana will take sales out of the underground market and allow for it to be controlled like other products that are legal for adults,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, a member of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. “Along with improving public safety, it will generate significant new tax revenue and create good jobs for our communities.”
Meanwhile, opposition to the idea of recreational pot has also raised its voice. A group of lobbyists that calls itself Sensible Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM-Vermont, has begun to actively advocate against legalizing it.
SAM-Vermont argues that legalizing recreational marijuana carries too high a risk, especially for teens. Deborah Haskins, a member of the group, said teenage marijuana use can cause one’s IQ to drop by several points, in addition to adversely impacting attention span and memory.
On the governmental end of the debate, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he’s not opposed to the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana, but would like to wait and see how California and Washington state’s laws play out before Vermont follows suit.
Ultimately, it’s unclear if and when Vermont’s legislators will draw up a bill that allows for legal recreational use — and even more unclear if they will vote it into law.