April 2, 2016

Public Voices Mixed Opinions on Marijuana Legalization

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Montpelier (March 31) – Vermonters voiced strong and divided opinions on the legalization of marijuana at the public hearing held at the statehouse. Many testified in front of House Judiciary committee and Government Operations committee to get their voice heard in the debate to legalize.

 Opinions were divided, and with close to 70 people testifying, themes in arguments emerged on both sides. Anti legalization advocates heavily emphasized the dangerous effects marijuana legalization could have on the youth. Many expressed a fear that it would encourage teens to use marijuana, which would lead to a derailment of their studies and personal lives. Another major concern was public safety and driving while high.

Some people mentioned Colorado, where there have been some unintended consequences such as higher rent prices due to an influx of people moving to the state because of marijuana. As one woman put it, “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean we should.”

 Pro legalization advocates argued strongly that Vermont would see many economic benefits from marijuana legalization and that concerns that teen use would increase were invalid.

 Four ninth graders from Montpelier high school testified saying that in a survey conducted in their school, 66% of 11th graders had reported smoking marijuana before, with most of them saying that they had easy access to marijuana. The ninth graders begged the question that if all of them already have an easy way to access marijuana, how would legalization make marijuana more accessible because it’s almost impossible for it to get more accessible than it is now.

Another theme throughout the hearing: many Vermonters want to see homegrown on the bill. Many testified saying that they support legalization but request a re write of the bill to include the ability to grow plants and create alcohol based tinctures, although Governor Shumlin expressed in the beginning of the process that he would not approve a bill with homegrown included.

The committees will hear testimony throughout the week, and will soon vote on the bill.


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