Zuckerman introduces marijuana legalization bill

Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, has introduced a bill this year to legalize, tax and regulate the production, sale and recreational use of pot in Vermont.

But Zuckerman says the timing isn’t right for full legalization this year – though that is his ultimate goal.

“I think this is a building year, more than a likely passage year,” Zuckerman said.

Last year the Legislature decriminalized small amounts of pot. The bill, which went into effect in July, replaced criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket.

Gov. Peter Shumlin has said legalization is not a priority this year. The governor, however, is closely watching the regulation and taxation of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, according to the governor’s spokesman Scott Coriell.

Legal marijuana sales for recreational use will begin Jan. 1 in Colorado and the state expects $578 million in annual sales to generate $67 million in tax revenue, according to Bloomberg News. Sales in Washington are expected to begin later this year.

Matt Simon with the Marijuana Policy Project said his organization won’t push legalization this year. Instead, they will focus on grass roots organizing, studying implementation elsewhere and trying to build a consensus about the path to legalization.

“We want to pass (tax-and-regulate) in 2015, and I don’t see any reason why Vermont wouldn’t be one of the first states to do this through the Legislature,” Simon said.

The Marijuana Policy Project spent $24,000 lobbying state lawmakers last year, and the nonprofit group has been a staunch financial supporter of the governor’s last two election campaigns. Shumlin, who is chair of the Democratic Governors Association, spoke to MPP donors on a telephone conference call in September about strategies for legalization efforts nationwide.

Zuckerman’s bill would create a regulatory framework for the wholesale and retailing of marijuana under the authority of the Liquor Control Board, and impose a $50 per ounce excise tax on all sales. It would allow people age 21 or older to possess two ounces or three plants, while maintaining criminal penalties for quantities in excess of that limit or marijuana sold outside the regulatory system. The penalties for underage possession would be the same as those for alcohol.

The bill was drafted previously and filed at the last minute, Zuckerman said, and he acknowledged it isn’t perfect. If it were to be taken up this session, the details could be ironed out through the legislative process, he added. The same bill in the House was introduced last session, though it’s unlikely to see the floor.

“If the real issue of criminal activity has to do with the black market trade and dealing of (marijuana), then it actually makes logical sense to remove that incentive,” Zuckerman said.

Doing so would allow regulators to control the strength of the drug, and tax money could go toward education and treatment of addiction as well as likely paying for other state spending, he said.

A bill to form a study committee on legalization was introduced last session by Sen. Jeannette White, D-Windham. White could not immediately be reached Tuesday, but Simon said the study bill stalled largely because of the all-consuming focus on passing decriminalization. Both he and Zuckerman said they thought the study had a good chance of passage this year.

The main legislative focus for Vermont marijuana advocates in 2014 will be eliminating the 1,000-person cap on the number of patients who can get marijuana through a dispensary, Simon said. He said that is an arbitrary figure.

With close to 900 medical marijuana patients, nearly 500 of whom rely on dispensaries, the state could hit that ceiling this year, especially with a fourth dispensary set to come online in Brattleboro, according to Simon.

White introduced a bill that would do away with the 1,000-person limit for dispensary patients. It would also add post traumatic stress disorder to the allowable conditions, give naturopathic physicians the ability to recommend marijuana and allow for additional dispensary licenses and home delivery.

A similar bill in the House from last session would do away with the patient limit, add PTSD, anxiety and insomnia to the allowable conditions and raise the number of patients one caregiver can serve to five.

Morgan True

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34 Comments on "Zuckerman introduces marijuana legalization bill"

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Brian Kelly
2 years 4 months ago

The “War on Marijuana” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars. Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions of more dollars fighting a never ending “War on Marijuana”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer. The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being… Read more »

Bill Olenick
2 years 4 months ago

50 dollars an oz tax!!!
Sopping up the gravy boys…

ron jacobs
2 years 4 months ago

Actually, now is as good as next year, but bravo to Dave for getting the ball rolling!

sandra bettis
2 years 4 months ago

Yay for David Zuckerman! Vt can use the tax money – this is a law that is long overdue!

Walter Carpenter
2 years 4 months ago

“Yay for David Zuckerman! Vt can use the tax money – this is a law that is long overdue!”

I agree. Many applauses for David for doing this. It is long past time we stopped the idiotic war on pot. It is crazy that cigarettes, which kill hundreds of thousands of Americans a year (never mind all over the world), are still legal while pot, which does much, much less damage, if any at all, is illegal. It is a testament to the power of the cigarette companies.

Annette Smith
2 years 4 months ago

I came across this movie the other day while looking for something else, called the True History of Marijuana http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E96vow07OJc. It’s well done and educational. The real crime here is the prohibition on industrial hemp. After watching the movie, I realized that many of the ills our planet is now experiencing are a direct result of making the growing of cannabis species illegal worldwide. In the 1930s, industry was poised to fuel industrial production with cannabis. Instead, we have the petroleum, synthetic chemical, pharmaceutical, and paper industry all fueled by fossil fuels. This issue goes far beyond the ability to… Read more »

Steve Giroux
2 years 4 months ago

Thanks Annette. This was very well done.

Lance Hagen
2 years 4 months ago

My question is who is going to buy the legitimate stuff, with an added $50/oz tax, when they can buy the illegal stuff for considerable less? It is not like the existing ‘black market’ is going to disappear.

Bill Lawrence
2 years 4 months ago

THANK YOU….EXACTLY !

Robert Julian
2 years 3 months ago

i 100% Agree i think its ridiculous that they want a $50/oz tax that’s why to much there just being greedy. it should be just like how they sell alcohol.

Joe Ratley
2 years 4 months ago

Watching from Oklahoma, where criminal penalties for marijuana are medieval, I applaud Vermont for your just & wise goals of legalization, regulation, medical use, and taxation of The Good Herb. I don’t currently enjoy it due to job testing, but this is temporary. As for the seemingly high tax of $50/oz I would expect that the price shall plummet where that tax would still be attainable/workable, yet I do think that it is too high. Congratulations, Vermont!

Jim Barrett
2 years 4 months ago

The next time we lose a war on some issue we should legalize it according to these idiots. We are constantly told to not smoke and pot just happens to be consumed mostly by smoking. Another excellent issue to place before the young and the hopeless……..smoke it up folks and don’t worry about kids being in school stoned!!!

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago

Hey Mr. Barret, you are a great American, but all wars are started by evil, no matter what the law says. I think he who declares war first is most likely more wrong. The marijuana prohibition, which was the governments entry level drug to the war on drugs, has caused a lot of death and destruction on both sides of the law. Currently the main benefactors of such laws are the DEA, and the cartels. Do you remember any wars we lost that we shouldn’t have quit? The big question behind the idea of taxing a plant many people love… Read more »

Neil Gerdes
2 years 4 months ago

like the kids aren’t getting stoned already? ignorance is bliss

Walter Carpenter
2 years 4 months ago

“The next time we lose a war on some issue we should legalize it according to these idiots.”

Do you object to tobacco? The damage to our bodies and our society which tobacco does is almost unimaginable, yet tobacco is legal. Why are we not having a war on tobacco?

Tamara Dabney
1 year 9 months ago

legalizing pot won’t make more young kids smoke it. Did you not read the article? Just like alcohol, the legal age would be 21. Legalizing marijuana just makes it easier (and incredibly profitable) for the state to control, greatly reducing the influence of the black market.

Connie Godin
2 years 4 months ago

Just look at Colorado and think of tax dollars and the end of another prohibition. Alcohol ruins lives pot does not. Colorado has sensible rules in place and VT should follow. Soon. Before I croak, I’ve already been waiting 40 years.

ken watters
2 years 4 months ago

I am all for the legalization of pot, the tax revenue it would generate would be able to help the states in many ways, create jobs and have the ability to put the real criminals behind bars, instead od a simple everyday person that likes to smoke pot, face it our jails are overcrowded by simple so called pot heads. I am 48 years old who has smoked most of his life until probation got me and 40 months on the shelf just because pot is illegal. I applaud Colorado and them stepping up and realizing that the war on… Read more »

Fred Woogmaster
2 years 4 months ago

Legalize it, NOW!

nancy sanford
2 years 4 months ago

pass HR499 it helps people in the need to live a better life for many reasons as listed plus many more

Bill Olenick
2 years 4 months ago

Just had to get this afterthought in.
We lost the drug wars 40 years ago…

Curtis Sinclair
2 years 4 months ago

We should expand drug screening for people in jobs that involve public safety.
Two Johns Hopkins physicians and patient safety experts advised that all hospitals should test doctors for drug use to enhance patient safety.
JAMA. 2013;309(20):2101-2102. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.4635.

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago

We are the public and all of us should plan to look out for our own safety, not expect Big Brother to do it for us. Define all the jobs that involve public safety please Curtis. Airline pilot to cafeteria worker to janitor to nuclear scientist all can have an effect on public safety. How do we ever define a subject such as “public safety” and who is good, and who deserves legal discrimination? I would start testing everyone who gets a check from taxpayers. EVERYONE!!!!!!! How can they subject us to these standards of behavior without verifying their own… Read more »

Curtis Sinclair
2 years 4 months ago

Airline pilots and mechanics already get screened for drugs. Maybe that is why there has never been a commercial airline accident linked to pilot drug use. All jobs in the medical field should also require drug screening. I don’t think anyone wants the doctor or nurse treating them to be impaired by drugs. People in the railroad industry are screened, but a report from 2012 revealed that “Amtrak’s employees failed drug and alcohol tests at a staggering 51% higher rate than the rail industry average.” http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/28/travel/amtrak-drug-alcohol-tests/ A recent study showed that drug use is high among commercial truck drivers. That… Read more »

Peter Everett
2 years 4 months ago

How about testing members of Congress or State Legislature(s)? Bet most, if not all, are on some mind altering substance. Their behavior cannot be the result of rationale thinking. This goes for members of both sides of the isle. Many of these people come from the 60’s where they, most likely, were an active part of the counterculture that developed.

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago

What law says mechanics are tested Curtis?
Believe that if it makes you feel good.
Mechanics or auto technicians?
The welfare kind or the taxpaying kind?

steve merrill
2 years 4 months ago

Best history is Martin Lee’s “Smoke Signals” and on pg. 195 cites a 1916 USDA study showing that one acre of fiber hemp produces the same amount of paper as FOUR acres of 20 yr. old trees and is an excellent rotation crop, but thank Hearst and DuPont who had the patent on bleaching pulp paper (w/dioxins) so along came the “Mexican Menace” to society. As for “drug testing” one could go on a coke, heroin, and booze bender yet “test” negative a mere three days later while weed stays in your system for 30+ days..No 4th Amendment problems either,… Read more »

Peter Everett
2 years 4 months ago

2 year old tests positive for pot after eating laced brownie…..responsible adults in Colorado???? Hmmmm.

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago

Define responsible please.

Peter Everett
2 years 3 months ago

A simple defintion: A non politician, or, some one who assumes (I know makes an ass out of you & me) responsibility for their own actions & doesn’t blame others when their ideas & programs fail (kind of sounds like a person we all know). Some one who doesn’t try to do more than they’re capable of doing. Some one who doesn’t impose their will on others. Some one who doesn’t mock others for having different beliefs from theirs. Some one who will care about their family & neighbors without telling everyone how to do so. Maybe you believe that… Read more »

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 3 months ago

yes

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 3 months ago

The first definition of responsibility is a non politician? Can’t argue with that one!
You don’t expect politicians to be responsible?

Lance Hagen
2 years 1 month ago

Thought this was interesting Wonder if VPIRG and CLF are lining up to fight this marijuana legalization effort. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/marijuana-pot-weed-statistics-climate-change • 80 percent of all marijuana grown in the USA comes from California. • In 2013, California authorities seized 329 outdoor pot grow sites with: 1.2 million plants, 119,000lbs of trash, 17,000lbs of fertilizer, 40gal. of pesticides, 244 propane tanks, 61 car batteries, 89 illegal dams, and 81 miles of irrigation pipe. • During California’s growing season, outdoor grows consumed roughly 60 million gallons of water a day – 50% more than is used by all residents of San Francisco. •… Read more »

Tom Stevens
1 year 9 months ago

Come on folks, its an election year and Governor Shumlin is taking it on the nose (no pun intended) for a failed health care policy, allegedly taking advantage of a disadvantaged neighbor in a land grab, a downgraded revenue projection, and now he wants to “study” the prospect of legalization. He wants your vote. and he along with the progressives will allow you to bake legally in return. Pack a bowl, and don’t forget to vote. Don’t fall for it.

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