About this time last year, many people (myself included) got excited as a bill was introduced in Vermont that would have legalized, regulated and taxed cannabis for adult use. It was one of the first bills like this to get so much attention and it looked extremely promising – even the Governor at the time was hoping to see the legislation land on his desk for a signature. Unfortunately, the bill ended up dying in the House and it was not revived a second time that year.
This year, the state’s new Governor, Phil Scott, is not nearly as pro-legalization as Shumlin, who had not only supported legalization but used his last days in office to pardon those with minor drug offenses like cannabis possession. It’s unfortunate to see the state get so close last year and to know many feel discouraged with the new Governor in place and clearly against their current efforts.
That won’t be stopping the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana – a pro-legalization group made up of members of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, ACLU-TV and the Marijuana Policy Project – from calling on lawmakers to move towards this change and not to give up now. The group has hope that with nearby states having passed legalization initiatives last November, there will be more of an incentive for Vermont lawmakers to move towards reform sooner rather than later.
“Massachusetts, Maine, and six other states have made marijuana legal for adult use,” said Matt Simon, New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It makes no sense for Vermont to continue punishing adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. Lawmakers should move swiftly to eliminate penalties for adult possession and limited home cultivation. They can then work to implement a reasonably regulated system that will take marijuana sales out of the illicit market.”
In both Maine and Massachusetts possession, consumption and home cultivation of the plant are now perfectly legal – and Vermonters want to have that same legal right. If ballot initiatives were a possibility for the state, then the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana would surely be at the heart of it – and it would probably make it to the ballot and pass easily – but that is not an option in Vermont, so citizens can only pressure lawmakers to move in the direction they want.
“There’s no way all this toothpaste can be forced back into the tube,” said Simon, whose group is a member of the coalition. “Prohibition has simply obviously failed, and the majority of Vermonters, like other New Englanders, are ready to move forward with a new approach.”
Three weeks into the legislative session we have yet to see a legalization bill crop up, which could mean a couple things: Either the lawmakers preparing such a bill want to keep it under wraps until they get certain details worked out, or those lawmakers have given up their efforts now that the chances of gaining the Governor’s signature are significantly less than they were last year. However, it’s still early and it was about this time last year when a legalization bill was introduced, so maybe they just haven’t finished drafting it yet and are waiting to announce anything until it is ready – as of now, only time will tell.