Respondents in the recent poll were asked: “Two states — Washington and Colorado — have legalized and regulated marijuana for recreational use. Do you support or oppose passing a similar law in Vermont to legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use?”
Of those surveyed, 54 percent supported the idea with 40 percent opposed. Six percent had no opinion.
Support was particularly strong among young people with 70 percent of respondents age 18-44 (or 161 people) in favor. The results were about opposite for those 65 and older, who opposed legalization 61 percent to 30 percent.
“Clearly, the opposition remains most substantial among voters who are 65-plus and Republicans,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project. “I guess some people remain nostalgic for a simpler time when you could ‘Just Say No’ and be done with the issue, but any realistic person realizes that those days are long gone — that marijuana is here to stay whether we like it or not, and we have to figure out how best to deal with it.”
Vermont lawmakers are currently considering a bill which would tax and regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol.
Vermont legislators have a unique opportunity in 2015. Instead of leaving marijuana production and sale in the hands of illicit dealers, they could decide to move forward with legislation that would regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol.
Yesterday, a bill was introduced in the Senate that would end marijuana prohibition in Vermont. Senator David Zuckerman (P-Hinesburg) introduced S. 95, which would make marijuana legal for adults and allow the state to begin regulating marijuana production and sale. It would also allow adults to cultivate two mature plants in an enclosed, locked facility.
With the Vermont General Assembly set to convene this week, a group of citizens, organizations, and businesses from around the state is officially launching a coalition to support legislation that would end marijuana prohibition in Vermont and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.
The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuanaheld a news conference Tuesday, a day before the start of a legislative session in which lawmakers are expected to consider whether Vermont should follow the lead of Colorado and Washington state in legalizing the drug. Supporters say that efforts to stamp out its use by making it illegal have failed and that the state could raise revenues by taxing the drug.
“Regulating marijuana will take sales out of the underground market and allow for it to be controlled like other products that are legal for adults,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, a coalition member. “Along with improving public safety, it will generate significant new tax revenue and create good jobs for our communities.”
Coalition member Joseph McSherry, a neurophysiologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center, said that many young people report that it’s easier to acquire marijuana than alcohol. Changing marijuana from an illegal to a legal market could reduce its availability to teenagers, he argued.
“If you want to make marijuana harder to get for kids, especially the risk takers and sensation seekers, you need to legalize it and regulate it,” McSherry said. “The people who deal in illegal drugs aren’t selective” about their customers.
Executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia, discusses what’s next for the push to make marijuana legal in the United States:
The state that will most likely be next to legalize is Rhode Island, which would be the first to do so via state legislature. Also this spring, the District of Columbia is expected to enact a similar law through its city council.
There’s also a real opportunity to legalize marijuana through five more state legislatures between now and 2017 – Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont. There will also be serious legislative activity in other states, such as New York, but it is less clear when such legislation will pass.
The report will not make any recommendations either for or against making marijuana legal in Vermont. It will, however, provide data that will help policymakers understand the issue, and it will prepare legislators for the vigorous debate over marijuana regulation that is expected during the 2015 session.
The co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corporation, Beau Kilmer, is working with Vermont’s Secretary of Administration to prepare the report. In a recent presentation, Kilmer said the first section of the report would be an examination of what he called “Vermont’s marijuana landscape.” In other words, how many people currently use marijuana in Vermont?
“And so we’re able to kind of cobble together information from surveys what we know about misreporting, information we have about total amount consumed, we’re able to put that together to come up with a range,” said Kilmer. “So I’m optimistic about the future of marijuana market studies.”
In addition to determining how many people use marijuana in Vermont, Kilmer said the report will analyze health and safety issues, various potential regulatory models, and projections of the expected impacts of reform, including tax revenue.
The Secretary of Administration is expected to present the finished report to the legislature by January 15.