Research - Marijuana

Update 1/11/2918
The House passed H.511 last week. See my page on Roll-Call votes.
The Senate passed the bill yesterday, by voice vote. It's on its way to the governor.

This page is a collection of the research I've done in order to make an informed decision on the potential legalization of recreational marijuana in Vermont.

The options:
  • Status Quo - Vermont statutes legalize the consumption of marijuana for specific medicinal purposes. This is implemented through a state run registry under the authority of the Dept. of Public Safety. The possession of an ounce or less of marijuana was decriminalized in 2013. This means that it is no longer an arresting offence resulting in a criminal record. This is similar to a traffic ticket and may result in fines.
  • Legalize Small Quantities - During the 2017 legislative session several legalization alternatives were introduced. Senate bill S.22 legalized the possession of a small amount of marijuana and the growing of a few plants. The bill passed the House and Senate, but was vetoed by the governor. House bill H.511, which started out as a highway safety bill, has now been rewritten with the language of S.22. H.511 will be considered in the House at the very beginning of the 2018 legislative session. The bill allows those over 21 to possess an ounce or less of marijuana and grow no more than 2 mature and 4 immature plants. See my Outreach page for more information.
  • Taxation and Regulation - Last session House bill H.490 described a taxation and regulation plan for the legalization of marijuana. It was sent to the committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs and stayed there. It may be considered during the 2018 session.

What are other states doing?
Eight states have legalized recreational marijuana. They are:
  • Colorado and WashingtonIn November of 2012 Colorado passed state constitution amendment 64 and Washington state passed Initiative 502. The wikipedia articles reached through the links in the previous sentence give an adequate overview of legalization in those two states.
  • Alaska: Measure 1 on Alaska's 2014 ballot approved the taxation and regulation of recreational marijuana. The measure went into effect in February of 2015. The tax went into effect in November of 2016.
  • Oregon: Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana. In 2014 the state passed Measure 21 legalizing the cultivation and use of recreational marijuana "based on regulation and taxation to be determined by the Oregon Liquor Control Board." Until the regulations were/are developed, the state is in limbo.
  • California: In November of 2016 California passed Proposition 64 legalizing recreation marijuana use by adults. The legal sales of marijuana went into effect in January of 2018.
  • Maine: Maine legalized the possession and sale of marijuana through Question 1 (a ballot initiative in November of 2016. The vote was very close. Retail sales of marijuana is slated to start in February of 2018. However, things have gotten a bit confused as a law providing for the regulation and taxation of marijuana was vetoed by the governor in November of 2017.
  • Massachusetts: The November 2016 ballot in Massachusetts included Question 1 which legalized the possession, cultivation and use of marijuana for those over 21. The initiative took effect on January 30th of 2017. However, retail sales and any taxation has been delayed untril July of 2018. 
  • Nevada : Recreational marijuana became legal in Nevada on January 1st of 2017 as the result of a November 2016 ballot initiative. Sales of marijuana by licensed dispensaries started in July of 2017. Individuals cannot grow their own marijuana unless they are more than 25 miles from a licensed dispensary. 
And Canada?
Canada is on the verge of approving the legalization of marijuana. The bill to do so has passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate. Online sales (the system currently used for medical marijuana) may begin soon after the bill is passed (perhaps by July of 2018).

What this means for Vermont
Clearly, we can learn from what other states have done and from the results of their legalization. It is important to realize that all of these states legalized through a ballot initiative. The legal structures for taxation and regulation had to scramble to build the system mandated by the voters. Vermont has the opportunity to go slower and build the implementation before legalization.

Major Concerns
This portion of this page is currently being researched.

Health Effects
  • On the developing brain
  • For pregnant women

Mental Health

Public Safety
  • Highway safety
  • Crime
  • Drug addiction

Visit with Colchester Police Chief regarding Marijuana

I met with Colchester Police Chief Jen Morrison (1/2/2018) about the proposed legislation. She is also a member of the Public Safety Subcommittee of the Marijuana Commission created by the governor's executive order. Her comments:

  • Due, in part, to decriminalization the amount of department resources that would be saved by legalizing marijuana is small.
  • Being able to legally search a vehicle due to the aroma of marijuana has resulted in the confiscation of far more serious drugs and the prosecution of serious crimes.
  • Canine units do not distinguish between marijuana and other illegal drugs. Legalizing marijuana may require the replacement of current canine units with those trained not to alert when marijuana is detected. The cost might be as much as $50,000 per animal.
  • A reasonably inexpensive roadside test for impairment by marijuana does not exist at this time. Prosecution would require either a blood sample or recommendation by a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). If the subject is not willing to have a blood sample drawn, a warrant must be obtained. The sample also requires transportation to a medical facility where medicos are put in the position of having to take a sample from an unwilling patient. DRE's may not be available in a timely manner, negating their ability to provide accurate information about the driver's condition at the time of the incident.
  • The governor's commission has not yet issued it's report. Proposed legislation should at least wait until that report is available and it's recommendations considered.


Economic Impact
  • Tax revenues
  • Cost of Implementation
Quality of Life