There are high hopes that Vermont will be the first state to legalize marijuana through legislature rather than by voter initiative. So far, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be disappointed. The bill has been in the works for over a year in order for the Senate to write up a bill that covered as many aspects of a legal marijuana industry as possible.
“It makes for a much more thoughtful and measured approach,” said State Senator Jeanette White, a sponsor of the senate bill. “We got to work out the details, we got to ask the questions first and put the whole infrastructure in place before it happens.”
After spending time in Colorado and viewing first-hand how the system has been running so far, the Senate finally introduced Bill S.241, which seeks out to legalize marijuana for possession and use by adults 21 and older. The bill narrowly made it to the Senate floor by a 4-3 vote, but in the end it passed and now it is in the House for consideration.
The most important thing here is that this is the first instance where lawmakers have taken it upon themselves to put an end to prohibition. Hopefully it will be a great, shining example for many other states to follow. After all, not all states have the option of a voter initiated ballot measure, which leaves them with no real way to reach reform other than relying entirely on the state’s officials.
“It sends an important message that legislatures don’t have to be afraid of this, it’s not a third rail anymore,” said Jeff Laughlin, a 37-year-old software programmer from Barre, who supports the measure.
Surprisingly, the initiative has support from many places where you might least expect it– for example, a previous Attorney General (from 1973-75).
“Instead of continuing this failed policy, we should regulate marijuana in a controlled environment to limit underage access and ensure consumer safety for adults,” Cheney wrote in a recent commentary. “We have the power to decide who benefits from an industry that is clearly not going to disappear.”
The House has until the end of May, when the current session ends, to come to a final decision on this bill. There is a bit of question on whether or not the bill will have enough support in the House to pass, but clearly there are plenty of people pulling for it on all sides. A recent polling of the citizens of Vermont shows that 56% are in favor of passing marijuana legalization into law.
For now, we will have to wait and see – but it sure is exciting! Hopefully Vermont will be the first state to entirely end prohibition on the east coast and lead the way for many more states to follow suit through legislature, rather than waiting for the people to force it on them.