To the editor,
I’m pleased that legislators have agreed to decriminalize possession of marijuana, but the conversation shouldn’t end here. Marijuana is a much safer substance than alcohol or hard drugs, and that’s one reason legislators should move swiftly to begin regulating-and taxing-this market similarly to the way we regulate alcohol.
As Attorney General William Sorrell explained at public hearings on the decriminalization bill, it would be better if users had a legal way to obtain marijuana rather than continuing to buy it from the illicit market. Sorrell suggested decriminalizing possession of a small number of plants, which would make a lot of sense, but ultimately the best solution is to allow regulated cultivation and sale of marijuana to adults who wish to use it.
This may still be a controversial idea in some circles, but regulating marijuana would have many benefits for Vermont. A regulated approach would not only produce much needed revenue to fund important programs and services, but it would also significantly reduce the profits available to dealers of illegal drugs and reduce the likelihood that marijuana users will be exposed to sellers of more dangerous drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine.
Attitudes on this issue have changed dramatically in recent years, with a recent Pew survey showing 52% support for legalization nationwide. As a former member of the House Corrections Committee, I urge legislators to keep Vermont ahead of the curve on this issue by passing a sensible regulation bill in 2014.