The state of Vermont, home to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, is setting itself up to be the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana through legislation. Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska all legalized recreation marijuana through voter referendums, a vote by the people that forced legislature to act. Washington D.C. also has legal pot, achieved through popular vote, but our Senators and Representatives tried as hard as they could to stop it.
Traditionally, politicians have fought against legalization even when it is the obvious will of the people. Because of that, when the people force legalization onto the politicians, they are often unprepared to write proper, meaningful legislation governing its use. Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin is changing that, or at least he plans to according to his State of the Union address.
Vermont has already decriminalized marijuana, but the governor notes that it still has to come from somewhere.
“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. That’s why I will work with you to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably.”
Gov. Shumlin wants to legislate legalization so that they can be sure to think of every aspect that they want. For instance, he doesn’t want the sale of edibles to be legal. Though, I expect, the home bakery will still be acceptable. They just don’t want things kids can hide to be easily available.
To do it right, we must do it deliberately, cautiously, step by step, and not all in one leap as we legislate the lessons learned from the states that went before us. I will insist on five things before I’ll sign a bill.
- 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.
Leave it to Vermont to finally stop obstructing the will of the people. Let’s hope we get two firsts from them this year, first state to legislate legalization, and home state of the first president to represent We the People.