Vermont could become the first state in the northeast to legalize recreational marijuana, with state lawmakers submitting legislation on Feb. 17 to end the prohibition of the drug.
The proposed legislation would allow for the “possession, use and sale” of the drug for those aged 21 and over. Any state citizen over the legal age could have up to an ounce of marijuana in their possession and grow as much as nine plants at a time.
Even if you don’t live in Vermont, you will still be able to purchase up to a fourth of an ounce of the drug from a licensed retailer.
The drug would be heavily taxed, with “an excise tax of $40 per ounce of marijuana flower, $15 per ounce of any other marijuana product and a $25 tax on each immature cannabis plant sold by a cultivator.”
However, the revenue would go to funding for substance abuse treatment facilities, state law enforcement, increased education about the harm of using drugs, and research on cannabis.
If passed, Vermont would become the fifth state to recreationally legalize marijuana, after Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon. The nation’s capital also voted to approve their own measure, but it needs to go through Congress first, as D.C. is not its own state. Vermont would be different from the other states in that the state’s legislature would be voting on the legalization or not, compared to the previous states mentioned where citizens voted to approve their own legalization bills.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), who was just narrowly elected to another term, came out in support of legalization.
“My bias on legalization is toward legalization,” the governor said. “Let’s remember, we have this conversation and we pretend that you can’t get marijuana now. In the real world, folks, if you want to get marijuana in Vermont, we’re in Lala Land if we’re pretending you can’t.”
Most of the state’s voters agree with the governor – a poll last year found 57 percent of state residents support the recreational use of marijuana.
Vermont was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana use, in 2004. Almost a decade later, in 2013, the state decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug.
Photo Credit: Tyler Ericsson/Flickr, David Trawin/Flickr