Vermont could become the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the state legislature.
As support for marijuana continues to rise, new states are considering legalizing its use. Vermont, the home state of Bernie Sanders, is known for progressive politics.
This may be the reason Vermont lawmakers have made an unprecedented move on marijuana reform. A bill to legalize recreational marijuana use has survived the legislature and found its way to Governor Phil Scott’s desk. Scott has only until early next week to sign the bill.
While Vermont may be joining a growing trend of marijuana legalization, unlike the eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana use, it would be the first state to approve it within the state legislature and not through the ballot process. Implementing such a law through lawmakers is a bit different.
“It’s a slower and difficult process,” says Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project according to Rolling Stone. “But the reality is that prohibition has failed in Vermont, and the majority of Vermonters are ready to move on with a new approach.”
According to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, 57 percent of voters in The Green Mountain State support legalization, while only 39 percent are opposed. The Rand Corporation recently found that 13% of Vermont residents use marijuana regularly.
With high support for marijuana within Vermont and in neighboring states, it could be the right time to legalize.
“The fact that Massachusetts and Maine are both moving forward with legalization and expected to have retail stores open next year is part of what’s accelerated the conversation in Vermont,” says Simon.
Since residents will easily be able to cross nearby state borders to purchase marijuana, Simon would like to see the potential new revenue stay in-state.
“One of the benefits that comes with regulating and taxing marijuana is not having money leave the state, instead of going into cash registers in Maine,” Simon said.
Not everyone is pleased with the fact that recreational marijuana is a possibility in Vermont.
“This legislation isn’t about criminal justice reform,” says Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Sabet fears that legalization could create a “new addictive industry.”