If you’re a lawmaker who supports legalizing marijuana, but your peers stall any effort to discuss the matter, what do you do? Two Vermont legislators decided to go on the offensive and introduce a bill not to legalize marijuana, but to criminalize alcohol under laws identical to those that make pot illegal in their state.
Vermont state Reps. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington) and Jean O’Sullivan (D-Burlington) said their bill is a symbolic effort to “recognize recent scientific studies that demonstrate that alcohol use is significantly more dangerous than marijuana,” the Bennington Banner reported. House Bill 502, which even Pearson and O’Sullivan do not actually support, would impose penalties on the possession, cultivation and distribution of alcohol identical to Vermont’s current penalties for marijuana offenses.
“A person 21 years of age or older who possesses a small amount of alcohol may be ticketed for a civil violation and subject to a monetary penalty of up to $500.00,” the bill reads. “Possession of larger quantities of alcohol, as well as cultivation, distribution, and sale of alcohol will be subject to criminal penalties ranging from one day to 30 years’ imprisonment and fines ranging from $1.00 to $1,000,000.00.”
Pearson, O’Sullivan and eight other Vermont representatives are also sponsors of HB 277, which would legalize marijuana under laws similar to those in Colorado. People 21 and older would be allowed to carry “limited amounts” of marijuana for personal use, but would be penalized for possessing large amounts or attempting to sell marijuana without proper permits.
“We need to admit that the war on drugs has been an abysmal failure,” Pearson said of the bills, My Champlain Valley reported. “Whereas prohibiting sale and possession of alcohol is a laughable suggestion, the common sense reaction against this idea should be the same logic we use to consider the continued prohibition of marijuana.”
Both bills -- and a Senate bill similar to House Bill 277 -- were introduced in February and remain stalled in their respective judiciary committees. None is expected to go to the floor in 2015.