Could the state of Vermont collect millions of dollars in new tax revenue if the sale of marijuana is legalized? A majority of House members want to know the answer to this question.
The marijuana study is part of a larger bill that deals with the operations of the state’s four medical marijuana dispensaries.
Two states have legalized marijuana, Colorado and Washington, and they’ve imposed sizeable taxes on a variety of marijuana products.
Burlington Rep. Kesha Ram says the study calls on the Secretary of Administration to research this issue and report the findings to lawmakers next January.
She says the study will provide concrete information about how much new revenue the state could collect if marijuana is legalized.
“States are our democracy’s experiment stations; sometimes it’s good not to be the guinea pig,” said Ram. “We can learn from the experiences of other states and existing models about costs and savings as well as projected versus realized revenue.”
Ram says the study will also look at the societal issues that are associated with the legalization of marijuana.
“Substance abuse costs, corrections costs, things that we know we’re hearing from other states,” said Ram. “Or we know that are general concerns from members of this body should we move toward taxation and regulation of marijuana.”
Milton Rep. Ron Hubert voted against the study. He says he opposes the legalization of marijuana so he doesn’t care how much revenue the state could raise from the sale of marijuana products.
“We don’t know whether we move forward with this whether we are going to be in violation of many, many federal laws,” said Hubert. “It would be still be considered illegal and therefore I don’t think the state of Vermont should be in the middle of it.”
The House approved the study by a vote of 87 to 52. Gov. Peter Shumlin says he generally thinks legislative studies are a waste of time but he supports this one.
“Now I think it makes good sense for the Legislature to begin to ask the question if we legalized in Vermont what would it mean for us in terms of revenue, in terms of implications?” said Shumlin. “So I support this study. In that case I think you’re studying something we don’t know.”
The medical marijuana dispensary bill originated in the Senate so now that chamber will decide if it wants to include the revenue study in the final version of the legislation.