The Vermont legislature will consider legalization of marijuana during the 2014 session.
Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden filed S.306. If passed, the bill would legalize the sale of marijuana with the state regulating it at both the wholesale and retail level. Under the law, anyone age 21 or older would be able to possess up to two ounces and three plants.
Passage of the bill would further nullify unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.
Zuckerman’s proposal would create a regulatory structure with oversight by the Department of Liquor Control. An excise tax on every wholesale seller of $50 per ounce upon marijuana sold in Vermont would be established. Criminal penalties for possession of larger amounts of marijuana and the sale of marijuana outside the regulatory structure established in this bill are maintained. The penalties for underage possession of marijuana would be the same as they currently are for underage possession of alcohol.
Gov. Peter Shumlin recently said he supports marijuana legalization in Vermont, but he’s “neither willing nor proposing” to do it during the upcoming legislative session. Shumlin is considered by marijuana legalization advocates as the example all other governors should follow.
Zuckerman himself agrees there are many competing issues that will come before the Judiciary Committee in 2014 that make passage of his bill unlikely. But he says he does believe that passage will come within the next two years, and that now is the time to lay the groundwork and persuade his colleagues in the legislature on legalization.
“I don’t think there are a lot of hurdles except for political patience,” he says.
Vermont has already moved to decriminalize marijuana possession. Since July 1, 2013, possessing less than an ounce of marijuana is not a criminal offense in Vermont. First-time offenders will not get more than a $200 fine for possession. The fine will increase for repeat offenders — $300 for a second offense and $500 for every offense thereafter — but, under the law, marijuana possession will no longer result in the creation of a criminal record.
Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana remains a criminal offense, and state law still forbids the cultivation of cannabis plants. Medical marijuana usage has been legal in Vermont since 2004. On the 18th of this month, Vermont’s fourth medical marijuana dispensary was authorized for distribution in the town of Brattleboro.
One of the immediate public benefits of legalizing marijuana is the impact on illegal distribution.
Richard Van Wickler is the corrections superintendent for Cheshire County in New Hampshire. He believes that legalization is the only solution. Wickler is also a spokesman for LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Wickler maintains that decriminalizing marijuana still enables drug dealers to remain in business thereby continuing to subject communities to gang violence regarding areas of distribution.
In Colorado retail sales of marijuana are set to begin on January one of 2014. As Tenth Amendment Center blogger Shane Trejo writes “If the things nullification deniers say were true, Colorado would have been rebuked. The people would have been wasting their time. According to federal the supremacists’ erroneous interpretation of the Constitution, the states are little more than underlings that have no alternative but to take everything their federal masters dish out. But that was not the case, as Colorado proved.
Michael Boldin, founder and executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center clarifies the issue this way.
“At the Tenth Amendment Center, we see three options when it comes to cannabis laws on a state level: (1) legalize on a state level and reject federal laws; (2) criminalize on a state level and reject federal laws; or (3) keep the status quo. Since the Constitution doesn’t authorize the federal government to have any say whatsoever over whether cannabis should be legal OR illegal, option (3) is a non-starter for anyone claiming to be in favor of the Constitution.
Next week Colorado retail marijuana shops will open for business. Later in the year, Washington state shops are expected to come online. On August 29th of this year, Eric Holder’s Department of Justice all but conceded defeat in the marijuana war against the states. Look for Vermont to add another victory for the States in the very near future!
There is presently no companion bill in the Vermont House of Representatives. Find your representative HERE and ask him or her to sponsor a House version of the Zuckerman senate bill.
If you live outside Vermont, start a marijuana initiative in your state, visit our Tenther Action Center.
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