Vermont Marijuana Legalization 2016: Bernie Sanders' State Legislature May Make Weed Legal


Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders' home state of Vermont may become the first state to use legislation to legalize marijuana recreationally without voter initiative if state legislators pass the bill, according to Reuters. In February, the state Senate passed a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for those over 21 years old starting in 2018, but also ban people from growing plants and selling edibles.

The creation of the bill follows a year of convincing hearings in the Senate about marijuana, and its decision needs to be made before May, Reuters reported. However, having marijuana legalization in the hands of lawmakers would expedite the process, compared to voters'.

"It makes for a much more thoughtful and measured approach," State Sen. Jeanette White, a bill sponsor, told Reuters. "We got to work out the details, we got to ask the questions first and put the whole infrastructure in place before it happens." 

Read more: One Year Later, Here's the Impoverished Hellscape Legal Marijuana Has Caused in Washington
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Gov. Peter Shumlin called the war on drugs "outdated" at his State of the State address in January, and said he thinks legal marijuana would reduce black market sales and "strengthen existing DUI laws," according to the Washington Post.

With the bill, there'd be a 25% tax on marijuana sales, which would go to "drug law enforcement and drug education programs," according to Reuters. Edibles should be off themarket until pioneering states like Colorado have figured out proper regulation, Shumlin said.

Advocates claim 16 other states have tried similar bills, but this is the farthest one's ever gone, Reuters reported.

Out of 895 Vermonters, 55% supported legalization, a poll by Vermont Public Radio found, according to Reuters. In 2013, Vermont decriminalized marijuana, but a substantial amount of users still turned to the black market for purchase in 2015, Shumlin noted in January, according to the Washington Post.

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