Bill could legalize sale of marijuana

A Vermont state senator introduced a bill this year to legalize recreational marijuana.

Sen. David Zuckerman, at a pro-marijuana rally earlier this month, argued that it’s easier for most underage people to obtain unregulated marijuana than it is to get alcohol, which is regulated by the state. In legalizing recreational marijuana, it would make it more difficult for younger people to obtain, he said.

A report recently released by the nonprofit RAND corporation, an independent research company, examines Vermont marijuana use and the potential benefits legalization could create.

The state could gain $20-75 million in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana. Estimates in Washington state and Colorado far exceeded reality, according to the report.

Gov. Shumlin, a known advocate for legalization, said that without further data, the time might not be right yet.

With Alaska and Oregon ready to legalize marijuana next year, the data may be available sooner than predicted.

In order for Vermont to fully benefit from legalization, though, black market marijuana sales would have to be stopped. Between 60,000 and 100,000 Vermonters use marijuana, spending  $125-225 million annually, according to estimates from RAND.

One UVM dealer, when asked if he feared loss of business to legal vendors, said he wasn’t afraid at all.

“Street prices of marijuana would still be far lower than whatever any new store would sell it for,” he said.

Legalized marijuana in Vermont would probably be restricted to consumers over the age of 21, like it is in Colorado and Washington, Zuckerman said.

“I don’t think it would be harder [to get] … There will always be dealers, especially at a place like UVM,” sophomore Mallory Foster said.

Both the dealer and Foster said getting rid of marijuana’s bad reputation is key to its legalization.

“When I went to my doctor and told him I smoked pot a few times a week, he told me that I might as well be doing heroin,” the dealer said.

UVM’s image will not be damaged by this legislation, Zuckerman said.

“I don’t think changing how we ‘deal with pot’ in society and in Vermont necessarily changes the perception of what UVM is,” Zuckerman said.

“I mean, UVM is a well regarded academic institution and frankly, people smoke pot at Harvard and Stanford and schools that are well beyond what UVM is regarded as,” he said.