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Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) made clear in his annual State of the State speech that he intends to pursue full legalization of cannabis throughout the state, offering an outline for a plan that is historic in its ambition.

Shumlin stressed the importance of taking the distribution of cannabis outside of the hands of black-market dealers.

“The outdated War on Drugs has…failed, and there is no greater example than our nation’s marijuana laws,”

said Shumlin in the address. “But the black market of drug dealers selling marijuana for recreational use is alive and well, serving over 80,000 Vermonters who reported using marijuana last year. These illegal dealers couldn’t care less how young their customers are or what’s in the product they sell, or what illegal drugs you buy from their stash, much less whether they pay taxes on their earnings.”

Shumlin listedĀ five requirements that would need to be met under any legalization framework:

  • First, a legal market must keep marijuana and other drugs out of the hands of underage kids. The current system doesn’t. Our new system must.
  • Second, the tax imposed must be low enough to wipe out the black market and get rid of the illegal drug dealers.
  • Third, revenue from legalization must be used to expand addiction prevention programs.
  • Fourth, we must strengthen law enforcement’s capacity to improve our response to impaired drivers under the influence of Marijuana who are already on Vermont’s roads.
  • Fifth, take a hard lesson learned from other states and ban the sale of edibles until other states figure out how to do it right.

Gov. Shumlin’s approach is unique because, instead of making marijuana legal through a ballot measure voted upon by Vermont citizens, he is instead seeking a legislative solution.

“We have a history of tackling difficult issues with respect and care, the Vermont way,” Shumlin continued in his speech.

“I believe we have the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right.”

The move to move a measure through the state legislature has already won plaudits among experts in the field.

“It’s looking more and more likely that Vermont will be the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislature instead of by a citizen ballot initiative,”

said Tom Angell, director of Project Oversight and Communications for Marijuana Majority. “This signals an important shift in the politics of marijuana.”

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