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Will Vermont be next to legalize?

By Jacob Covell
On January 28, 2015

Jacob Covell / Spartan Contributor

    Prohibition is the legal act of prohibiting the manufacture, storage, transportation and sale of an item. Often associated with the alcohol prohibition of 1920, the word has new relevance among Vermonters as the state considers lifting the prohibition on marijuana.

“Personally it wouldn’t affect me, but I feel that it has better uses than alcohol,” said Timothy Wallace, a senior at Castleton.    

Vermont and other states are delving into the possibilities of what legal marijuana could mean.  In 2013, the state passed a bill decriminalizing up to an ounce of the drug and since has seen a push for full legalization.

But where is the push coming from?

“A majority of Vermonters realize the war on drugs and prohibition has caused more problems than it has solved,” says Teo Zagar, a state representative from Barnard, adding that too much time and money have been focused on low-level crimes like marijuana.

 Many are looking at marijuana as a means to raise money for the state. According to Forbes, after legalizing pot last year, Colorado made a reported $2 million in tax revenue after just one month and has an estimated earning $40 million for 2014. Vermont Sen. David Zuckerman of Hinesburg says taxes won’t be the only financial boost to the state.

“If you want skier numbers to go up in Vermont, you should support legalization,” he said, citing that younger tourists would likely take legal marijuana into consideration when choosing a vacation destination.

Jacob Covell / Spartan Contributor
Sen. David Zuckerman supports legalizing pot.

Vermont’s legislature had a peak in interest last year, approving a $100,000 study of the financial impact it would have on the state.  The Rand Corporation, a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges, began the study in 2014 and will have its final report later this month.    

Beau Kilmer, the director of Rand’s study, said, “Really there are nine main issues to focus on when thinking about the legalization.”

According to Kilmer, those issues are production, profit motive, promotion, prevention, penalties, potency, purity, price, and permanency. Kilmer said many of the decisions involving these issues have to be decided by the state and that the study will help highlight them.  

Not all marijuana talk is positive though. The legalization movement has had some pushback from Vermonters. In a recent statewide forum, residents voiced concerns.

“One-stop shopping is not the message we need to be sending by legalizing marijuana and it endangers our public in general,” said Bill Colman, a Newport resident.

In the same meeting, Rutland M ayor Christopher Louras testified for the “League of Cities and Towns” saying that after consulting with the state police, the group is officially opposed.

But many Vermonters circle back to alcohol as a reference to marijuana.

“I have a glass of wine with dinner from time to time. If someone is using marijuana in the safety and privacy of their home, it’s hard to tell them they can’t do that from a policy perspective,” Zagar said.

Zuckerman says realistically marijuana won’t be legalized for at least another year if not two. But overall he’s fairly optimistic.

“It should happen, I think it will happen, but we have to go about it in a thoughtful manner,” he said.


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