Marijuana Legalization Debate Blazes In Vermont
With marijuana legalization efforts complete in Colorado and Washington, advocacy organizations and lawmakers are looking to Vermont as one of the next major battlegrounds in the fight.
Sam VT, a group in Vermont staunchly against the legalization of marijuana, is gearing up for the upcoming debate, which will be kicked off by a new RAND Corporation study on how much tax revenue Vermont could expect if marijuana were legalized in the state. The study will be released on Jan. 15.
“As a grass roots organization we are committed to keeping our youth, our roadways, and public safe. Whenever a state looks at changing its culture by legalizing a drug, we need to think about the societal costs. VT will hopefully have a spirited discussion in 2015 that we hope will bring science, research and thoughtful discourse to a complicated topic,” Debbie Haskins, Director of SAM Vermont, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“We hope that VT’ers care enough to have this discussion based on science, rather than emotion or for money,” Debbie said.
Sam VT is hosting an educational event on Jan. 9, in order to inform legislators and other interested parties regarding the risks of legal marijuana.
Medical marijuana is already approved in Vermont, but advocacy organizations are hoping for lawmakers to move the debate all the way to its conclusion: legalization.
In the beginning months of 2014, Vermont lawyer Carl Lisman registered an organization called “Vermont Cannabis,” which has the express purpose of promoting cannabis products. The Marijuana Policy Project is eyeing Vermont as a prospect in 2015, as well.
“Creating a legal market for marijuana would result in businesses being able to make money, hire people, create jobs, increase economic activity in Vermont, and we see it being a win for Vermont businesses,” Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Vermont Public Radio.
MPP has placed a field director and grassroots outreach director in Vermont this past year, and the organization’s goal for 2015 is to see legislators adopt a marijuana legalization bill for consideration. Vermont Sen. David Zuckerman is currently 85 percent done with a draft of a legalization bill which would set out regulations and tax policy for the drug. An October poll found that more voters supported legalization of marijuana in Vermont than opposed it.
But the prospects for a legalization bill don’t look promising, as legislators are intent on waiting to see the results in Colorado and Washington before proceeding. Vermont legislators also have their attention grabbed by a $100 million dollar budget shortfall.
“I don’t think it’s going to be something of a major priority this year,” said Vermont Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning. “I think people are still waiting to see how it works.”
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