MONTPELIER, Vt. (Dec. 29, 2015) – A bill introduced in the Vermont legislature would legalize marijuana for recreational use, taxing and regulating the crop similar to alcohol. The proposal would not only legalize marijuana in the Green Mountain State, it would also take a big step toward thwarting federal cannabis prohibition in practice in Vermont.
Sen. Jeanette K. White (D-Windham) and Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) pre-filed Senate Bill 241 (S.241) for introduction in the 2016 legislative session. The bill would allow individuals twenty-one years and older to possess:
"(A) one ounce of cannabis;
(B) 100-square-foot plot of cannabis plants; and
(C) any additional cannabis produced by the person’s cannabis plants, provided that any amount of cannabis in excess of one ounce of cannabis must be possessed in a secure indoor facility."
If S.241 is successful, Vermont would be the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the state legislature rather than the ballot initiative process.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Passage of S.241 would remove one layer of laws prohibiting the possession, cultivation or use of marijuana, but federal prohibition would remain in place.
Of course, the federal government lacks any legitimate authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
While the Vermont bill would not alter federal law, it would take a step toward blocking the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By erasing the state laws, the Vermont legislature would essentially sweep away the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
If the state legislature passes S.241, Vermont would join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 states now allow cannabis for medical use. With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically thwarting the ban.
S.241 will be formally introduced during the 2016 legislative session, and will receive a committee assignment shortly thereafter.