11/13/15: Vermont was the first state to ban slavery, legalize gay marriage through legislation and mandate labeling of genetically modified food. Will Vermont also be the first state in the Northeast to legalize marijuana for recreational use and the first to do so through legislative action?
A RAND research study reports that 60,000-100,000 Vermonters enjoy pot recreationally and spent between $125-225 million buying pot on the black market in 2014. Castleton Polling Institute found 56% of Vermonters favor legalization of cannabis. Nationwide, public opinion about marijuana is undergoing a major shift and Vermont is known for its residents love of the green bud.
Adult use marijuana is currently legal in four states and medical marijuana is legal in 23 states. Medical marijuana has been legal in Vermont since 2004 and starting in 2011, the state permitted four dispensaries to sell marijuana to chronically ill patients. In 2013, possession of an ounce or less of pot was decriminalized and instead of jail time, results in a fine.
The Senate Committee on Government Operations has spent the last year discussing the details - asking how we can legalize recreational marijuana the Vermont way, keeping businesses local and small. And they're examining issues like how to prevent driving under the influence and how to keep dope away from young Vermonters. As some have already pointed out, the devil is in the details.
Although it isn't April 20th yet, Eva commemorates her 420th video by examining the role of weed in the state right now. She attends a statehouse hearing, talks to Dr. Harry Chen, Vermont's Health Commissioner, meets some of the staff at Champlain Valley Dispensary, hangs out with Mark Tucci, an early advocate of medical marijuana, and talks to people on the street in Burlington and Montpelier.
Time will tell if recreational marijuana will be legalized in Vermont, but the Green Mountain State's reputation as 420-friendly is sure to stick around.