The New York Times Asks Obama and Congress to Take Lead Ending Marijuana Prohibition


Continuing its support for sensible marijuana policies, The New York Times published an editorial Thursday asking Congress and the president to support a bill, introduced this week by Sen. Bernie Sanders, that would allow states to determine their own marijuana laws.

Support for making marijuana legal is increasing around the world, and that is a good thing. Earlier this week, the Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing the drug by giving four plaintiffs the right to grow cannabis for personal use.New-York-Times-Logo

In Canada, the newly sworn in prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he intends to change the law so people can use the drug recreationally; medicinal use is already legal in that country. And in the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, recently introduced a bill that would let states decide if they want to make the drug legal without worrying about violating federal law.

Laws banning the growing, distribution and possession of marijuana have caused tremendous damage to society, with billions spent on imprisoning people for violating pointlessly harsh laws. Yet research shows that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, and can be used to treat medical conditions like chronic pain.

What’s needed now is responsible leadership from President Obama and Congress. They ought to seriously consider the kind of legislation Mr. Sanders has proposed.

You can read the full editorial here.

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Vermont Attorney General Predicts Legislature Will Legalize Marijuana 2016


Attorney General Bill Sorrell

While many states will be considering making marijuana legal in 2016, Vermont may be the first to do so through its legislature. MPP’s New England Political Director Matt Simon is so optimistic that he is moving to the state from nearby New Hampshire in order to spend more time working with lawmakers there. Now, the state’s attorney general has predicted that Vermont will make history next year. reports:

[Attorney General Bill] Sorrell said in an interview Tuesday that while he doesn’t have any “insider information,” it’s his belief that the General Assembly will pass, and the governor will sign, legislation to legalize and regulate the recreational use and sale of marijuana during the upcoming legislative session.

While no “prominent Vermonter” has told him that marijuana will be legalized, his reading of the tea leaves (“or the marijuana leaves,” he quipped) is that this is the year for legalization.

“Let me put it this way, I will be surprised if marijuana is not legalized in this next legislative session,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vermont House Speaker Supports Legalization


Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith, previously undecided about whether to support a bill that would make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol, has put his support behind such a measure for the 2016 session

VT House Speaker Shap Smith (photo: Ben Sarle) .

Vermont Public Radio reports:

For months, Smith has taken a “wait and see” position concerning the legalization of marijuana. He said he wanted to remain undecided until Vermont lawmakers could closely evaluate the experience of Colorado and Washington, the two states that have legalized marijuana for more than a year.

Smith is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2016, and this legislation could be become a campaign issue.

Smith says he thinks it makes sense for Vermont to legalize marijuana if it can be done with a thoughtful approach.

“It’s clear to me in my discussions with Vermonters that in general, the people in this state probably favor legalization,” Smith said on VPR’s Vermont Edition on Aug. 28. “And I certainly believe that we can legalize marijuana if we do it right … we’ve seen what has happened in Colorado and Washington, and we can learn from their experiences.”

Earlier this year, Sen. David Zuckerman and Rep. Chris Pearson introduced legislation to regulate marijuana, but the session adjourned before they were able to get a vote.

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New Vermont Law Allows Expungement of Misdemeanor Marijuana Records


Sen. Joe Benning

In addition to Vermont‘s substantial progress on marijuana regulation this year, state legislators quietly passed a bill that will make a big difference in the lives of people who have been convicted of misdemeanors for marijuana possession. Sponsored by Senator Joe Benning (R-Lyndonville), S. 115 allows Vermonters who have been convicted of crimes for “conduct [that] is no longer prohibited by law or designated as a criminal offense” to have their records expunged after one year (in most cases).

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed S. 115 into law May 26. It took effect upon passage. As a result, individuals who were convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession before Vermont’s decriminalization law passed in 2013 may now petition the court to have their record expunged.

Please share this excellent news with your friends and family, or with anybody you know who has been convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.

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Vermont Poll Shows Majority Support Making Marijuana Legal


A new poll released by the Castleton Polling InstituteScreen Shot 2015-03-18 at 4.46.33 PM shows that a majority of Vermont residents want to make marijuana legal and regulated for adults. reports:

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.

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Vermont Bill to End Marijuana Prohibition Introduced Tuesday


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.

Sen. David Zuckerman

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.

If you are a Vermont resident, please contact your representatives and senators today and ask for their support.

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Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Launched in Vermont


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.

From the Washington Times:

The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana VT Coalition logo 2held 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.

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MPP’s Rob Kampia Gives His Take on What’s Next for Marijuana Legalization


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.

In November 2016, at least five states are expected to vote on similar ballot initiatives – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada – and one could potentially appear on the ballot in Missouri.

By the end of 2017, marijuana could be legalized in 15 states and D.C., which would comprise 26% of the nation’s population.

Read the rest of Kampia’s column here.

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Vermont Legislators Will Begin 2015 Session with Report on Marijuana Legalization


In January, Vermont’s lawmakers will receive a detailed report analyzing many of the issues surrounding the possibility of making marijuana legal in the state.

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.

Beau Kilmer
Beau Kilmer (Photo courtesy of the RAND Corporation)

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.

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The Marijuana Policy Project is Already Gearing Up for 2016


Marijuana advocates made history with three huge Election Day victories in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. and are optimistic for what the future holds.

“The stage is now set for 2016, when measures to regulate marijuana like alcohol are expected to appear on ballots in at least five states,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which was instrumental in passing legalization in Colorado and bankrolled the successful campaign in Alaska.

The five states where MPP has already established committees to push ballot measures in 2016 are Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. The measures will likely be similar to the Colorado model, just as the measures in Oregon and Alaska were.

MPP also plans to work to help make marijuana legal through state legislatures, rather than ballot measures. The states that we are focusing on include Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Hawaii, and Maryland.

Most importantly, the upcoming push to make marijuana legal in those states will undoubtedly draw on the lessons learned from the successful marijuana policy reform campaigns so far — which, according to Tvert, fall into two categories. The advocates in Alaska and Colorado focused more on diminishing the fears concerned with the potential harms of marijuana by comparing the substance to alcohol, while advocates in Oregon and Washington argued that making marijuana legal is the safer alternative to marijuana prohibition.

“Our goal from the beginning was to get this message across that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol so that when that last month comes around, and the opponents are trying to scare people away from marijuana by saying it’s so dangerous, their reaction will be to say ‘yeah, but it’s less harmful than alcohol,’” Tvert stated.

Ultimately, by the looks of Tuesday’s election results, marijuana prohibition is on its way out. Moreover, momentum for sensible marijuana policy reform is growing across the country.

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