State News

Marijuana legalization supporters join forces

By Tom Brown,

Groups that support the legalization of marijuana joined forces Tuesday, saying that decades of prohibiting recreational use of the drug has failed.

“No matter how you slice it, marijuana prohibition has not been an effective policy for the state of Vermont,” Matt Simon, New England political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said at a Statehouse news conference.

The newly created Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana brings together advocates for criminal justice reform, civil rights protection, medical professionals and political groups to lobby for the legalization and regulation of marijuana in the upcoming legislative session. Simon said former Gov. Madeleine Kunin and the Vermont Progressive Party also support their efforts.

The Legislature decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2013. A bill to legalize and regulate recreational use of pot was introduced in 2014, but died. A bill calling for a study of the costs and benefits of legalization was approved. That study, being completed by the RAND Corp., is due to be released next week.

Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, said Tuesday that he plans to introduce a legalization bill within the first few weeks of the session, which begins Wednesday.

Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he supports legalization in concept, but wants to see more data from the laws passed in Colorado and Washington state.

Opponents of legalizing pot will also be represented in the Statehouse this session. SAM-VT, the Vermont chapter of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, held an educational outreach to legislators on what it sees as the dangers of legalization, particularly for young people.

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