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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  • Brian Kelly

    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 given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

    Marijuana is way safer, and healthier to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

    Marijuana is the safest and healthiest intoxicant known to man, with many wonderful medical benefits as well.

    Even The President of the United States himself has used marijuana. Has it hurt his chances at succeeding in life? If he had gotten caught by the police during his college years, he may have very well still been in prison today! Beyond that, he would then be fortunate to even be able to find a minimum wage job that would consider hiring him with a permanent criminal record. Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

    The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

    Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

  • Bill Olenick

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

  • ron jacobs

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

  • sandra bettis

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

    • Walter Carpenter

      “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

    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 generate taxes. Freeing cannabis from prohibition can make a genuine difference in the health of our planet.

    • Steve Giroux

      Thanks Annette. This was very well done.

  • Lance Hagen

    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


    • Robert Julian

      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

    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

    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

      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 is, “Will the expense of the war be eliminated by the taxes or will we now have to pay for both?”
      Considering how things operate, I am guessing both.
      Sorry you don’t like potheads. They just don’t bother me for that, and certainly not worth declaring war on.

    • Neil Gerdes

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

    • Walter Carpenter

      “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

      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

    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

    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 pot is a waste of money. HR499 was introduced to congress last February and it is time that they quit putting it on the back burner and legalize it. The cost of a person going to jail for simple pot use cost more than it would if it was legal, least states could be making money instead of it cost them, which the taxpayers have to flip the bill for. Write congress, Colorado set the example and now we need to tell congress to pass HR499…This prohibition needs to end

  • Fred Woogmaster

    Legalize it, NOW!

  • nancy sanford

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

  • Bill Olenick

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

  • Curtis Sinclair

    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

      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 adherence to the rules they make?
      I would include all Federal and Municipal workers if we keep the current laws.
      I would also want lawyers and CEO’s tested before a single civilian, they are sometimes quite dangerous to public safety.
      I am so sick of the double standards.

  • Curtis Sinclair

    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 is an obvious public safety hazard. http://oem.bmj.com/content/early/2013/09/13/oemed-2013-101452.short?g=w_oem_ahead_tab

    A quick internet search can guide you to what occupations courts have determined can be drug screened:

    Federal courts have upheld random drug testing programs for the following kinds of jobs:

    -Those implicating public safety: E.g., motor vehicle operators, locomotive engineers, aircraft pilots and boat operators working for Department of the Navy (AFGE v. Cheney, F.Supp. (N.D.Ca., 1990)); but not pathology technicians, diagnostic radiology technicians and dental hygienists (AFGE v. Cheney).

    -Those requiring the carrying of firearms: E.g., prison guards (Taylor v. O’Grady, 888 F.2d 1189 (7th Cir., 1989)); police officers (Brown v. City of Detroit, 715 F.Supp. 832 (E.D. Mich., 1989)).

    -Those with access to highly classified information: E.g., Department of Justice lawyers who hold top secret national security clearances (Harmon v. Thornburgh, 878 F.2d 484 (D.C. Cir., 1989), cert. den., 110 S.Ct. 865 (1990)).

    The courts are, in general, not permitting the blanket testing of entire workforces. For example in Burka v. New York City Transit Authority,F.Supp.(E.D.N.Y., 1990), a federal district court threw out a drug testing program that was too all-encompassing and included employees whose jobs did not have a nexus with public safety. Similarly, in Transportation Institute v. U.S. Coast Guard, 727 F.Supp. 648 (D.D.C., 1989), the federal district court struck down the drug testing program for shipboard cooks, messmen and cleaners.


    • Peter Everett

      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

      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

    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, right? I’m SURE Washington, Jefferson, and Madison would gladly whiz into a cup just to get a meager “job”…We could have a great market for Vermont grown weed that would add to our brand, instead of just breweries and Canadian Rye mixed with Vt. water..And how many know that the Fairbanks scale was specifically designed just for weighing HEMP? With all the carnage, domestic abuse, violence and home wrecking caused by booze why don’t we hold them accountable for all the damaged lives (and livers) like we did with the tobacco companies? Let’s have THEM pay for all the shelters, re-hab, counseling, detox and the rest of the ills caused directly by a LEGAL product. Ask any cop what their biggest concern and violence causing calls involve and it’s alcohol #1, by far..How stupid can we be and for how long? Google the Indian Hemp Commission, the Wootton Report, the Shafer Report, and the LaGuardia Commission for health/safety concerns. In 1937 Congress held 2-one hr. “hearings” before voting for prohibition with the last witness and only dissenter was Wm. Woodard, the counsel for the AMA, yet on 10-1-37 FDR signed it into “law” with millions of lives ruined and billions spent on this insanity. It’s OVER, legalize it..SM, North Troy

  • Peter Everett

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

  • Paul Lorenzini

    Define responsible please.

    • Peter Everett

      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 the adults who laced the brownies were responsible, I don’t. That may be you opinion, I disagree, yet I do so realizing you have the right to feel as you do. I won’t impose my beliefs or try to force you to accept my thoughts. Unlike others, I realize that my doing so makes you more hostile to opposing views. Most likely, we would not be very close neighbors, yet, I could live near you. Could you say the same?

      • Paul Lorenzini


        • Paul Lorenzini

          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

    Thought this was interesting

    Wonder if VPIRG and CLF are lining up to fight this marijuana legalization effort.


    • 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.
    • In California, indoor pot growing accounts for about 9% of household electricity use.
    • For every pound of pot grown indoors, 4600lbs of carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere. California’s production equates to emissions of 3 million cars.
    • The energy needed to produce a single joint is enough to produce 18 pints of beer, and creates emissions comparable to burning a 100 watt light bulb for 25 hours.

    Sources: Jon Gettman (2006), US Forest Service (California outdoor grow stats include small portions of Oregon and Nevada), Office of National Drug Control Policy, SF Public Utilities Commission, Evan Mills (2012).

  • Tom Stevens

    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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