MONTPELIER, Vt. — More than 50 Vermont attorneys have signed a letter urging the Legislature to “reform our state’s outdated and unjust policies towards cannabis by passing a bill to legalize and regulate its cultivation and sale for adult use in 2017.”
The letter will be presented to lawmakers at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on H. 170, which is scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m. ET in Room 30 of the Vermont State House. H. 170 is a bipartisan proposal to eliminate penalties for possession and cultivation of personal amounts of marijuana by adults 21 and older. It also reduces penalties for possession and cultivation of larger amounts of marijuana.
The letter highlights the harms caused by prohibition laws, which it notes are unevenly enforced across racial and geographic lines:
“Vermont’s current cannabis policy — predominantly criminal prohibition, with civil penalties for minor possession — has created an inconsistent and confusing patchwork of enforcement that varies from county to county and town to town. … Regulating possession, cultivation and sale will help end these grossly unjust and potentially unconstitutional disparities.”
The letter also discusses the recent passage of laws regulating marijuana for adult use in Massachusetts and Maine, as well as Canada’s plans to adopt a similar policy later this year:
“It is inevitable that entrepreneurs and businesses in neighboring jurisdictions will establish retail locations as close to Vermont as possible in order to cater to Vermont citizens who wish to be free from the dangers of the unregulated market, as well as the tourists drawn to our state. Rather than watching as cannabis policy is shaped by those around us who do not consider Vermonters concerns, the Legislature should seize the opportunity to design sensible drug policy that puts the public interest, social justice, and the rule of law at the forefront. …
“We cannot afford to wait and watch any longer as other jurisdictions reap the benefits of regulation while we continue to pay for the consequences of prohibition.”