House Speaker supports ending marijuana prohibition; Gov. Shumlin and most Vermonters agree
Last update: September 28, 2015
Vermont’s effort to legalize and regulate marijuana received a boost in August when House Speaker Shap Smith announced that he would support a legalization and regulation bill in 2016. Smith, who has announced that he is running for governor, joins Gov. Peter Shumlin and other Vermont political leaders as public supporters of ending marijuana prohibition.
On January 16, 2015, researchers from the Rand Corporation presented legislators with an in-depth report on marijuana legalization and regulation options in Vermont. The report, which was authorized by the legislature in 2014, revealed that approximately 80,000 Vermonters are regular marijuana users, and that they spend about $175 million each year buying cannabis from the illicit market. The researchers estimated that Vermont could reap between $20 million and $75 million per year in taxes if it decides to regulate.
Following the release of the report, Gov. Shumlin said he favors legalization and wants Vermont to move forward in a responsible fashion. Additionally, Commissioner of Public Safety Keith Flynn has said he supports taking “a hard look” at the idea, and many legislative leaders have gone further by saying they support regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol.
The case for regulating and taxing marijuana in Vermont was bolstered in September 2015, when a poll conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute found 56% support for the idea. Only 34% of Vermonters said they were opposed.
In 2015, Senator David Zuckerman (P-Hinesburg) introduced S. 95, which would replace Vermont’s prohibition of marijuana with a system of sensible regulation. Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington) introduced an identical bill in the House. Although the legislature adjourned for the year in May without voting on a marijuana regulation bill, an important Senate committee held several meetings seeking to determine “The Vermont Way” to end prohibition. These meetings are expected to lay groundwork for a new marijuana regulation bill for 2016.
If you live in Vermont, please ask your representatives and senators if they will pledge to support a sensible marijuana regulation bill next year. Please also click here to get involved with the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana’s historic effort to organize statewide support for ending prohibition.
Legislature passes bill to expand access for patients!
In 2014, MPP worked with the legislature to expand Vermont’s law so more patients can benefit from safe, legal access. S. 247, sponsored by Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), passed the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Shumlin May 27. This change in law eliminated the cap of 1,000 patients who were allowed to access dispensaries. It also allowed naturopaths to certify patients, allowed dispensaries to deliver marijuana to patients, and called for a study of the potential impacts of legalization and regulation. To view the rules for the Vermont Marijuana Program (VMP), please visit the Vermont Criminal Information Center website.
Vermont decriminalizes marijuana possession
On June 6, 2013, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed H. 200, which eliminated the state’s criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and replaced them with civil fines. This was a major victory for MPP and its legislative allies in Montpelier, who worked hard to build support for this sensible reform. Leading law enforcement officials, including Attorney General William Sorrell and Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, supported the bill, which went into effect July 1, 2013.
As a result of this reform, Vermont police and prosecutors now waste less time and taxpayer money on enforcing laws against marijuana possession. Individuals caught possessing an ounce or less of marijuana in the Green Mountain State are now fined but do not receive a criminal conviction. Those under 21 are now generally sent to diversion.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Vermont, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.