Marijuana growers and legalization advocates in Vermont discussed plans earlier this week for possible legislation in 2016 that would make the recreational use of cannabis legal in the state. State Sen. Jeanette White promised she would write a bill for the upcoming session to those gathered at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden in Brattleboro, Vermont, during a meeting held to gauge public interest and hear ideas concerning marijuana legalization, reported the Brattleboro Reformer News.
In Monday's meeting, which was called by advocacy groups Vermont Cannabis Collaborative, Vermont Home Grown and White, some expressed concerns that local marijuana growers would be left behind should the drug be made legal. Many reportedly suggested to White that she craft a bill that backed local, small growers and entrepreneurs.
"The fact is that a lot of the cannabis in Vermont comes from local people growing it," said Stuart Savel, a meeting attendee, according to the Brattleboro Reformer News. "And it's some of the best in the world. And to reinvent the wheel, and say, 'Now we're going to teach people how to do it and start it anew,' is, in a sense, throwing away the baby with the water."
Four states --Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska -- and Washington D.C. have passed legislation to legalize cannabis. Marijuana has already been decriminalized in Vermont, meaning it is usually treated like a minor traffic violation for first-time possession offenders. Medicinal marijuana is legal in the state as well.
White hosted a number of informal meetings last year to gather information from growers, law enforcement, critics, the public at large, health experts and members of the government in order to prepare for the bill she intended to have ready for the 2016 legislative session, which starts in January. State Rep. David Zuckerman previously proposed a legalization bill during the 2015 session that adjourned in May.
A majority of people in Vermont, 54 percent, support marijuana legalization, 40 percent oppose and 6 percent do not have an opinion, according to a poll by the Castleton Polling Institute in Vermont. Vermont marijuana legalization efforts garnered national attention in April when two state lawmakers proposed a bill that would prohibit alcohol in a move to highlight the fact that cannabis was still illegal.