The Senate of Vermont has passed a bill that will legalize the use of recreational weed in the state.
The legalization of marijuana use will make Vermont the first state in the United States of America to make such a move through the legislative process.
It is agreed that past legalizations were only made through a ballot process that is highly engineered by public opinion.
In the Senate, members voted in favor of the bill by 81-63. This bill will make it legal for adults, aged 21 years and above, to be in possession of reasonable amounts of marijuana starting mid-2018.
Vermont’s Senate went through the last phase of legalizing the new policy through gubernatorial ascent. Governor Phil Scott has now officially signed the bill into law.
It is remembered that the Vermont governor had vetoed a similar bill in 2017. This process had also experienced particular hurdles, with Republicans attempting to delay the voting process. The House members, however, managed to reject the plan. Expectedly, the resultant Vermont move has been met with a lot of positive energy.
The Marijuana Policy Project has lauded the State of Vermont and voiced its approval of the decision. The Project, which is known to be the biggest marijuana policy reform group in the country, seeks to instigate constructive discourse concerning issues about marijuana policies on a nationwide scale. In a statement, the group termed the Vermont bill as an “important milestone.”
Several policy stakeholders have also voiced their thoughts on this case. Matt Simon, one of the policy directors for the Marijuana Policy Project, believes that the legalization of recreational cannabis use in Vermont will set a precedent for other states to follow suit. This is especially significant since the process followed a legislative procedure.
In his remarks, Simon said that the United States ought to treat marijuana and alcohol in the same category of consumed substances.
Even though Vermont will become the pioneer of the legislative legalization of marijuana use, eight other U.S. states have legalized cannabis through the ballot process. The vote occurred the same day that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had sought the cancellation of a marijuana legalization policy that was created in the administration of former U.S. President Obama.
The guideline gave states the power to generate marijuana laws without federal interference. A key provision was that U.S. attorneys were expected to provide a minimal priority to cases related to weed. This was, however, the preserve of states that had legalized marijuana use.
This historical move by Vermont lawmakers highlights the great strides Americans have made in the marijuana legalization movement. For a long time, lawmakers used the ballot system to conceal their opinions. Decisions about legalizations would be made amid plenty of bad blood and mistrust between the public and policymakers.
This stemmed from the fact that ballot systems allowed the lawmakers to refrain from openly voicing their opinions in public. The legislative process means that these people can make public stances and own up to the effects. As is generally agreed upon that taking public stances is quite a risky affair and can expose a person to mass ridicule and the possible end of a lawmaker’s political career.
The marijuana legalization debate has matured over the years. Past decades have seen the mass victimization of weed as the cause of social problems in communities. Well, that has changed within the last few years. The public support for weed legalization has grown over time, and a large percentage of Americans seem to be favorably disposed to the idea of making cannabis consumption legal.
Politicians are now less afraid to take a public stance in support of legalization policies. Otherwise, criticized lawmakers may still be able to mitigate or lessen the amount and frequency of adverse feedback directed to them. In simple terms, weed is no longer an agent of character assassination.
In fact, a 2017 poll indicated that 64 percent of Americans are in favor of weed legalization in the country.
It is therefore natural for other states to follow the Vermont example.
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy has expressed his support for similar legislation. The state’s legislature has already geared themselves to pass a bill in early spring.
The fact that such states have rushed in to join the legalization bandwagon is a break from the past.
In Vermont, it had taken the state several years to arrive at the current decision. The legislation matter had been debated exhaustively, especially in public circles. Various public policy polls had already shown overall public support for the regulated possession and use of recreational marijuana.
On average, about 57 percent of the electorate believed that it was proper for 21-year-old adults to be allowed to possess limited amounts of pot. These statistics were specific for the year 2017 alone.
What Does Popular Opinion Say About This?
The Vermont decision is a classic expression of public opinion. To understand the current widespread support for weed legalization in the U.S., it is essential to illuminate a few arguments that are popular among proponents of the weed legalization debate.
What rationale do supporters of the marijuana legalization movement use to back their opinions?
First, proponents of the weed legalization policy cite the monumental social costs of maintaining prohibition initiatives. Prohibition has been blamed for the enormous expenditure of public resources to the derangement of people’s lives.
The police devote a huge chunk of their career time to enforce prohibition laws, which includes the arrest and prosecution of marijuana users, many of whom would be otherwise law-abiding American citizens.
Correctional facilities have held various criminals that were arrested for petty charges on the grounds of marijuana possession. It is only considered fair that correctional departments hold high ranking criminals that pose a significant threat to the American public. The State of Vermont has spent a considerable amount of tax dollars to enforce marijuana prohibition and debate its possible legalization.
The many years spent arguing the marijuana legalization case could have been spent solving other civic issues. National statistics reiterate the fact that marijuana enforcement efforts consume billions of tax dollars on an annual basis.
This begins with the resources needed to maintain the infrastructure necessary to enforce these laws, and ends with the ripple effect of controlling the behavior of the American public within the context of marijuana use. The overall social cost can be seen through the eyes of offenders.
An individual serving jail term would experience the substantial crippling of their prospects, thus culminating in the expected aggravation of social problems like unemployment.
Secondly, criminalization has proved to offer minimum benefits in controlling the cannabis craze in the U.S. The fact that cannabis prohibition attracts monumental costs is an understatement. This also extends to the dire need for the federal government to finance and maintain several initiatives around the country to that effect.
Proponents of weed legalization believe that criminalization must be vindicated through the overall social benefit accorded to U.S. communities. There are no substantial social benefits that have accompanied decades of marijuana prohibition. The war on drugs has largely failed to curtail substance abuse to controllable minimums.
This phenomenon exists even in the face of the reality that billions of tax dollars have been spent to combat the drug trade.
Still, about 30 million Americans are said to be marijuana users on an annual basis.
Moving on, the characteristics of the “marijuana high” does not warrant the negative popularity it attracts.
Many users and experts claim that the drug does not inspire violent behavior as compared to other substances consumed in the U.S.
Another facet to argue for the legalization of marijuana is based on the legitimate medical benefits of consuming the drug. Cannabis has long been considered to be a dangerous substance that poses serious health problems to its users. But the advent of medical marijuana came with a paradigm shift on how the large portion of American public viewed the substance.
Marijuana has been found to alleviate pain from cancer patients, improve digestion for some illnesses and help people living with chronic diseases. Legalization, therefore, would allow the public to access the drug and benefit from its medicinal attributes.
Lastly, initiatives surrounding marijuana prohibition have been criticized for being racially motivated. The history of weed criminalization has been associated with widespread cases of racism and ethnic profiling.
Since the 1930s, the decision to make weed illegal was fueled by stereotypes about minority communities in the U.S. As a result, unjust arrests and police brutality have been inflicted on African Americans and immigrants from South America.
Historically and still today, the “War on Drugs” has always unfairly targeted minority communities in the U.S.
But perhaps this new Vermont law will redirect this cycle for the good of the state’s community as a whole. And perhaps, other states follow suit.
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