As the tide of public opinion turns toward the legalization of marijuana, a plethora of states have begun work to legalize or decriminalize the plant for medical and recreational purposes, but Vermont has taken it a step further.
Vermont, a liberal state through and through, has been working toward the legalization of cannabis for some time. They were one of the first states in the early 21st century to decriminalize possession of a small amount of the currently scheduled drug, turning the once-federal offense into a misdemeanor – similar to a traffic ticket. Now, however, the state is making serious moves toward Colorado-style legalization of weed.
Vermont is currently in the grips of a massive heroin and opioid crisis, with Rutland at its epicenter. More and more young people in the state are turning to the cheaper heroin after becoming addicted to medically prescribed painkillers. This has greatly benefited Mexican cartels, who are moving the dangerous drug in increasing frequency into the United States after widespread legal access to marijuana in the U.S. has cut into their profits.
The difference in Vermont, however, is that the legalization effort will be the first of its kind to move through the traditional state House and Senate.
“According to the Burlington Free Press, Vermont became the first state to pass legislation legalizing the recreational use of marijuana through its legislature Wednesday. Colorado and eight other states have similarly moved to decriminalize the drug, but always through state referenda or other maneuvers. This marks the first true legislative victory for marijuana advocates in the U.S.
“The bill, which passed through the Vermont House of Representatives with a 79-to-66 vote, would legalize small amounts of cannabis possession starting in 2018 and establish a taxed and regulated market for the illicit drug. Having already passed the state’s Senate, the bill is now headed for the desk of Republican Governor Phil Scott, a marijuana skeptic.
“A recent poll found that 57 percent of Vermonters asked would approve of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman said that the fact the state legislature was able to push the bill through shows how in touch the governing body is with Vermont’s people. ‘I think it reflects that Vermont elected officials are more in touch with our constituents than a lot of elected officials in other states,’ he told the Free Press. Zuckerman added, ‘I think the public is ahead of us, but elected officials tend to be cautious when it comes to change.'”
Governor Scott, for what it’s worth, has not indicated yet how he will act when it comes time to sign or veto the bill.
His is an unenviable position, certainly, as he is pinned between the will of his constituents in legalization of the plant and the desire of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who just this week announced that he will be rolling back some of the softer precedents on drug enforcement that have become commonplace at the federal level.
In either case, the people of Vermont have spoken, as have the people of over 30 other U.S. states, in demanding that reform be made to the prohibition of marijuana.