On presidential election maps, Vermont appeared solid blue in November, but soon Vermont legislators will vote to join a host of green states across the nation. A bill recently introduced to the Vermont House of Representatives stands to effectively legalize marijuana for personal use and cultivation in the eight-o-two.
Per reports from VtDigger.org, the bipartisan-sponsored legislation would allow for individuals to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, and maintain two mature plants – seven immature plants – on private property.
If the bill passes, the Green Mountain state will join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Washington D.C, Maine, and Massachusetts – becoming the 10th state (or district) in the nation to legalize weed for recreational use.
This week, the implications of legalized cannabis have been at the heart of blazing discussions in the Castleton community. For various reasons, the bill has garnered an unsurprising consensus of support among students on campus.
"I support the bill and I think it will be positive for the community and the economy,” said senior business major Eamon Flynn. Flynn echoes the voices of many students who see the financial benefits of regulating marijuana as a taxable product.
The bill coming before the Vermont house, however, will not prescribe a regulatory system for a legal marijuana market in the state. The legislation, referred to by Moretown Rep. Maxine Grad as “decrim 2.0,” more closely mirrors legalization laws in Washington D.C. than those in Colorado and Washington – states where we have seen unprecedented spikes in state tax revenue. Castleton student supporters of Vermont’s legalization measure believe that if this first bill is passed, there will be future efforts in the state house to establish a viable market model.
Along with the potential financial benefits, some Castleton community members believe the legislation will mitigate problems associated with Vermont’s statewide heroin epidemic.
"The legalization of marijuana in Vermont represents a feasible, and cost-effective solution to the heroin crisis," recent Castleton University graduate Blake O’Brien said of the bill. "It's not only a healthier alternative, but one that assists with the effects of heroin cessation.”
Advocates of legalization are encouraged by Republican Governor Phil Scott’s recent comments regarding the bill. In VPR reports on Feb. 2, Scott told press members that he’s “not opposed to legalization, but that he has concerns about highway safety and edibles.” He is reportedly willing to consider the House plan.
“I think our Governor is a collaborator … My guess would be that he would find a way to sign,” Castleton political science program coordinator Rich Clark said. Clark also acknowledged Scott’s responsibility to public safety.
“He is our chief executive and the concern about driving while high is still out there,” Clark said.
Hope is strong for those who feel the time is right to legalize it. The bill has support from a coalition of legislators on both sides of the aisle, and lawmakers are optimistic that bipartisan efforts will sway Scott’s wavering veto.
Many young voters at Castleton share this optimism for the coalition’s success.
"Vermont is a very forward thinking state … I believe legalizing weed will be successful because of the responsible people who live here," Vergennes native, and Castleton University junior, Justin Strona said.