Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jan 2015
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2015 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Authors: Trevor Hughes and Dan D'Ambrosio


Vermont lawmakers are considering whether to become the first state 
Legislature to legalize marijuana.

Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational 
cannabis, but in each of those cases, it was voters at the ballot 
box, not lawmakers, who changed the law. Vermont could become the 
first state in history where elected officials directly legalize pot, 
and Gov. Peter Shumlin said he "continues to support" efforts to 
legalize marijuana.

Vermont's Constitution prohibits ballot referendums and initiatives, 
meaning any decision on marijuana would have to come from lawmakers.

Sen. David Zuckerman, a member of the Progressive party, plans to 
introduce a marijuana legalization bill this session.

"I think there is a wait-and-see attitude on the part of many," 
Zuckerman said. "There's also a let's-get-there-and-get-it-done attitude."

National momentum appears to be shifting toward marijuana 
legalization, and observers say Vermont or Rhode Island could be the 
next states to legalize.

"Colorado and Washington are proving that marijuana can be regulated 
and taxed like alcohol, and lawmakers around the country are taking 
notice," said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project.

Driving much of the debate in Vermont is an independent report 
commissioned by Shumlin that says state marijuana taxes could 
generate $20 million to $75 million a year. To reach the higher 
revenue number, the report contemplates "marijuana tourism" - smokers 
coming from other states.

Of course, not everyone in the state is thrilled with the idea of 
encouraging marijuana tourism.

The president of the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police, George 
Merkel, opposes legalization, saying he doesn't understand why the 
state is even considering it, other than "the lure of money."

Hughes reported from Denver. D'Ambrosio also reports for the 
Burlington (Vt.) Free Press.
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