Vt. lawmakers weigh pros and cons of legalizing marijuana - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. lawmakers weigh pros and cons of legalizing marijuana

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It's already legal in four states and some say Vermont should be next. Wednesday, high-tech tools helped members of the Shumlin administration collect feedback from across the state on the idea of legalizing marijuana.

A study -- thick as a book -- by the RAND Corporation hopes to soon answer Vermonters' questions on marijuana legalization. Beau Kilmer, a senior researcher with the nonprofit policy analysis group, addressed lawmakers and the public Wednesday.

"Once you get rid of the black market and allow the for-profit companies to come in, you're getting rid of a lot of the risk," Kilmer said.

Kilmer told legislators they must consider all potential effects of legalization such as who would produce the drug, would marketing be allowed and what profit would the state receive. Addressing the public later in the day through a statewide teleconference system tapping into communities across the state, Kilmer described an alternative to private commercial sale. It's called the state monopoly model.

"Which would allow the government to reap the revenues but potentially control the marketing," Kilmer explained.

A WCAX/Castleton poll in October revealed 49 percent of Vermonters support legalization while 43 percent oppose it. Mariah Sanderson and Margo Austin attended the public forum; they are opposed to legalization because of concerns over the effects marijuana use can have on adolescents.

Austin wondered, "What is the rush for full legalization when we have so many concerns?"

"Mostly, I think the biggest challenge that I see and that I'm most concerned about as a parent is the push from the marijuana industry to increase all the promotion and the produce of marijuana in our communities," Sanderson shared.

Dave Davidson of Burlington supports legalization, saying Vermont should look to a state like Colorado as an example.

"It's an agricultural commodity and it's something Vermonters should be thinking about," he said.

Kilmer gave few specifics about what legalization in Vermont would look like, speaking largely in hypotheticals.

"We're talking about raising a certain amount of money in taxation. I've heard about $11 million," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County.

Jeb Spaulding, the governor's secretary of administration, said the state will look at all effects legalization could have.

"Not just taxation and regulation but all the public safety issues, the public health issues," Spaulding said. "The governor does not yet have a position about whether the state should move forward."

The Rand report comes out in January, but for now proponents from both sides of the issue claim to have facts on their side.

"We really take a really good look at research," said Austin.

Meanwhile, supporter Dave Davidson said, "I feel that these people haven't done their research because if they had they wouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Medical marijuana is already legal in Vermont, but it's illegal to advertise the drug.

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