Vermont Legislature Could Be the First to Legalize Marijuana

By
US-DRUGS-OREGON
Sanders would approve.Photo: JOSH EDELSON

Bernie Sanders, who is not, in fact, a pot-smoking socialist, would nonetheless be proud of Vermont. As Reuters reports, the liberal-leaning state might become the first to legalize marijuana through legislation rather than through a voter initiative, as was the case in California, Colorado, Washington, and Alaska. In those four states (and Washington D.C.) voters put the issue on the ballot, but in Vermont, state representatives are set to vote on a bill passed by the Senate that would allow adults older than 21 to buy and smoke the drug beginning in 2018. The law would also prohibit residents from growing their own marijuana plants or selling edibles and would impose a 25 percent sales tax on the drug to fund state programs.

Voting on legalization this way “makes for a much more thoughtful and measured approach,” State Senator Jeanette White, one of the bill’s sponsors, told Reuters. “We got to work out the details, we got to ask the questions first and put the whole infrastructure in place before it happens.” What’s more, it would monetize a substance that a study reports one in eight Vermont residents (and one in three people ages 18 to 25) already use. “If it’s one in eight, to me that tells me that society for the most part is accepting it,” said Windham County sheriff Keith Clark. “If 12 or 13 percent of the population isn’t being open with law enforcement when we’re trying to investigate serious crimes, that’s holding us back from working with our communities.”

Of course the bill faces a certain amount of opposition, especially from House Republicans wary of legalization. Lawmakers have until May, when the current legislative session ends, to pass the bill.