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.
[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.
The evidence as he sees it? There is a clear path through the Legislature now that House Speaker Shap Smith says he favors legalization of marijuana. In previous legislative sessions, Smith has taken a “wait-and-see” approach, and has not allowed legislation to reach the floor of the House.
There are enough votes for legislation to pass in the Senate, he says, and outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he would sign a bill.
As momentum builds toward legalization, the Marijuana Policy Project has stepped up its lobbying efforts in Vermont. Its New England political director is moving to Montpelier to lobby full time.
Once legislation is crafted, there will be a contentious rulemaking process. Vermont, however, doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, Sorrell said. The state can draw from the experience of other states, such Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado, that have, or are in the process of, regulating recreational marijuana industries, he said.
Vermont would be the first state to legalize marijuana solely through legislative action. Massachusetts is expected to have residents vote on a ballot initiative as soon as November 2016.
If you are a Vermont resident, please contact your legislators and ask them to support making marijuan legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol.
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
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.