Vermont Governor Unveils Plan To Legalize Pot

By May Wilkerson 01/12/16

Peter Shumlin could make Vermont the first state to legalize weed through the legislative process.

Peter Shumlin

Marijuana could soon be legal in Vermont, if the governor gets his way. Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin outlined his plan to legalize pot in the state during his annual State of the State address last week. "The outdated War on Drugs has also failed," he said, "and there is no greater example than our nation’s marijuana laws."

Vermont decriminalized marijuana in 2013, but buying or selling it is still illegal, Shumlin noted. This means the 80,000 Vermonters who used marijuana last year, or more than one in 10 residents, had to purchase it on an unregulated black market. "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," said Shumlin.

During his address, Shumlin outlined five key requirements that any system of legalization should follow:

  • Have protections in place to keep teens from purchasing
  • Feature reasonable enough taxes to keep prices low, putting black-market sellers out of business
  • Provide tax revenue to fund addiction prevention programs
  • Strengthen existing DUI laws
  • And lastly, prohibit the sale of edible marijuana products that have caused problems in Colorado and other states, until the state can figure out how to properly regulate them.

The announcement represented a crucial turning point for the governor, who until last week said he was “struggling” over whether to back pot legalization.

If Shumlin’s plan comes to fruition, Vermont would become the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislature instead of by a citizen ballot initiative. "This signals an important shift in the politics of marijuana," said Tom Angell of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority. In Vermont, only one state lawmaker, House Speaker Shap Smith, had been skeptical about legalizing pot, but he officially came around to endorsing legalization late in the summer.

Meanwhile, Vermont senator and Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders has been a vocal proponent of legal marijuana while on the campaign trail, and recently called for an end to federal prohibition.

"We have a history of tackling difficult issues with respect and care, the Vermont way," Shumlin said. "I believe we have the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right."

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.