Vt. marijuana legalization bill unveiled - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. marijuana legalization bill unveiled

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It's a multimillion dollar decision: Should Vermont legalize and tax marijuana? A bill aiming to do that is now officially up for debate in Montpelier. But even its primary sponsor concedes the measure is debuting too late to take effect this year.

Sen. David Zuckerman handed out copies of his latest bill to legalize marijuana Tuesday.

"This bill basically brings marijuana into a regulatory environment much like alcohol," said Zuckerman, P-Chittenden County.

The measure mimics elements of recreational marijuana laws out west in states like Colorado, where the drug and infused products can be purchased from licensed retailers. Zuckerman's bill would allow for up to 42 such shops in Vermont, three for each county, though it would also allow municipalities to ban marijuana-related businesses. Out-of-staters 21 and older would be allowed to purchase a quarter-ounce of pot-- half of Colorado's limit.

"If we were in a larger volume scenario for out-of-staters, and they started really taking that across the borders, we could potentially face some sanctions from the federal government," Zuckerman said.

Vermonters could possess as much as an ounce and a small number of plants in a secure indoor facility.

Zuckerman applies lessons from Colorado's problems with edibles by mandating single-serving packaging.

To weed out the black market, he also proposes a lower tax rate-- $40 an ounce, with 40 percent of revenue earmarked for public education, as well as drug education and treatment.

"It would be impossible to take up the bill this year," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County.

Sears heads the influential Judiciary Committee, and says the Statehouse simply does not have time to consider the measure this year. Zuckerman agrees, and says the summer and fall could lead to further exploration of pros, cons and potential economic impacts. But Sears says lawmakers shouldn't mistake pot for a pot of gold, despite the state's revenue struggles.

"It might be a one-time help, one-time fix or something, but doesn't get you very far when you're looking at sustainable budgets," Sears said.

Everyone agrees more time will allow for more data on experiments out west, especially in Colorado, to come in.

There are differences between the laws in Colorado and what Zuckerman proposes, the biggest may be that it would allow for the formation of cannabis bars, giving a tourists a legal space to light up. That is essentially nonexistent in much of Colorado.

Click here for more stories on marijuana legalization efforts in Vermont.

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