Vermonters Weigh In On Marijuana Legalization

Nov 14, 2014

State officials have been working for months with the RAND Corporation to study the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana in Vermont.

This week, Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding took comments from a number of Vermonters all over the state in a televised public hearing.

And the one take-away from the meeting was that whatever the state decides about legalization, somebody's going to be upset.

To hear Laura Subin tell it, the big winners in Colorado's movement toward legalization weren't the first ones you'd think of.

"Business people around the state have a huge reaction when they learn that Colorado ski areas had a record number of visitors spending records amount of money last year." - Laura Subin, director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana

“Business people around the state have a huge reaction when they learn that Colorado ski areas had a record number of visitors spending records amount of money last year,” she said.

Subin is the director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. But it wasn't just organized groups speaking at the meeting; Maureen Fountain brought a very personal message of caution.

“Thirteen years ago this month,” she said, “my husband was killed in a car accident with two other young men going to work at IBM - in a head-on crash with a young man that was on drugs.”

Fountain voiced concern over the fact there isn't a roadside test to detect people under the influence of marijuana - like there is with the breathalyzer for alcohol.

Concerns from law enforcement had a role in turning another group against legalization as well.

Rutland Mayor Chris Louras spoke at the hearing, bringing a message from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

“It is the formal position of the League of Cities and Towns after receiving input from the Vermont chiefs of police to formally oppose the legalization of marijuana in Vermont at this time,” Louras said.

"It is the formal position of the League of Cities and Towns after receiving input from the Vermont chiefs of police to formally oppose the legalization of marijuana in Vermont at this time." - Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras

Another speaker, Cindy from West Townshend, weighed in with the idea that the Vermont local brand could be extended to marijuana, much like the craft beer movement.

“I would like to see marijuana legalized to make it a local-vore artisanal product,” she said.

The months-long RAND study, including policy analysis and input from the hearing, will be presented to the Legislature next spring. Then lawmakers will have to decide if Vermont will follow Colorado and Washington in legalizing marijuana.