Vermont Business Magazine The top law enforcement officer in Vermont has joined two of his predecessors in supporting marijuana legalization. Attorney General Bill Sorrell was joined by former Vermont Attorneys General Kimberly B Cheney and M Jerome Diamond in support of S241, the marijuana legalization bill, in a letter to the General Assembly Thursday. Citing the failure of prohibition, the Rand Corporation’s report that 80,000 Vermonters consume marijuana each month, and the danger to public safety created by the underground market, they called upon the Legislature to adopt a responsible, phased-in approach to marijuana regulation in Vermont.
In part, the letter says (see full letter below): "The consequences of forcing marijuana into the illicit market have become impossible for us to ignore. Last year, we learned from the Rand Corporation’s report that approximately 80,000 Vermonters consume marijuana each month, and that they spend about $175 million each year buying marijuana from illicit drug dealers. These numbers do not tell the story of a policy that is working for Vermont. We also know that some drug dealers who are currently selling marijuana in Vermont don’t care how old their customers are, and in many cases, may be introducing our friends and neighbors to more dangerous substances such as heroin. In contrast, we know that when Vermonters buy alcohol or tobacco, they are required to show ID, and the regulated market ensures that they are not being exposed to other, more dangerous substances"
"The State’s experience with the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana in 2013 and the regulation of access to medical marijuana since 2004 have had no dramatic or noticeable negative impacts,” said Sorrell. “It is time for Vermont to follow the lead of other states and to expand its current regulation of marijuana to personal use in the same responsible manner.”
Along with strict regulation (tighter than many advocates of legalization have promoted), the bill as it stands now in the Senate adds a 25 percent excise tax, which might be too much for Speaker of the House Shap Smith. Smith, like the governor, sees legalization as a law enforcement issue not a revenue windfall for the state. Too high a price could lead to a continuing and vigorous black market. He said earlier in the session that while he envisions marijuana being legalized in Vermont soon, he does not see it passing this session. If approved by the Senate, the bill will then have to wind its way through the House. If it fails to gain acceptance by adjournment this year, a new bill with a new Legislature and a new governor would have to be introduced next year. For that reason, legalization advocates are pushing hard to it approved this session.
Vermont AG: Feb 18, 2016