Should Vermont legalize recreational marijuana? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Should Vermont legalize recreational marijuana?

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It's a topic that's spreading rapidly across the nation-- bringing the marijuana black market into the light.

"I think the first thing we need to figure out is do we want to go down this road at all," Vt. Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding said.

The legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Vermont is a hot topic. Now, the state is bringing in Rand Corporation to research what that could mean if policymakers decided to move forward.

"I think it's a huge help to us and really the question for us is what does it mean financially? What does it mean in terms of health impact? What does it mean in terms of quality of life? What would the implications be for Vermont?" Spaulding said.

"The first section is going to assess the marijuana landscape in Vermont, providing information about total consumption, information about the criminal justice resources that are being spent when it comes to marijuana," said Beau Kilmer of the Rand Corporation.

The study will also explore marijuana policy options, consequences and how other states have adapted.

"I imagine we'll be getting information from some of the health agencies, and also law enforcement agencies in the state to make sure that we're getting really good information, as current as possible too for the state of Vermont," Kilmer said.

The state will shell out $20,000 for the study. Rand Corporation has also received a grant from Good Ventures Foundation for $100,000. The report will be complete by Jan. 15, just in time for the legislative session.

Sen. David Zuckerman says he hopes this will help him in his efforts to introduce a marijuana regulation and legalization bill next year.

"It's very clear that the current policy is failing and so really to me any information that we can learn better ways to regulate it, estimating what the revenue might be, I think are good bits of information," said Zuckerman, P-Chittenden County.

There are plenty of issues looming around the idea-- how it would be sold, taxing and access to children, along with many more questions.

"I understand that the law enforcement community is very nervous about it, but we may be able to learn something on how this is playing out in Washington and Colorado that may confirm those concerns or minimize those concerns," Spaulding said.

And for policymakers, it's a step that will give them the tools to argue their side of legalization.

"I think it's much more wise as a state to bring it out in the open, regulate it appropriately, make sure it's only used by adults," Zuckerman said.

The study will be from an objective point of view. Rand Corporation will do the bulk of their research in the fall.

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