Vermont attorney general backs recreational marijuana bill

Local News

Vermont’s top law enforcement official says he wants a tax and regulated system for pot.

Democratic Attorney General TJ Donovan told the Senate Committee on Judiciary Thursday that the legislation calling for a 10% tax on pot sales, including edibles, is “about protecting consumers and protecting kids.

“We can’t tell Vermonters that they can possess and be silent on how you obtain it,” he said.

Donovan cited the arrest of a Burlington head shop owner for selling marijuana from his store to highlight the need for a regulated system to weaken the black market.

“When we are silent, you’re going to have an abuse of that system,” he said. “Thankfully somebody didn’t get hurt but it raises real issues.”

Other state leaders are not on board. That includes Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Anderson, who on Wednesday said the bill lacks a technique to test impairment and other road safety measures.

“I hope part of your consideration will be from the majority of Vermonters that don’t use and have no interest using marijuana or any other drug as part of their recreational pursuits,” he said. “Their voices seem to have been forgotten.”

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine also opposes the bill, saying it’s unacceptable without at least $6 million for prevention efforts.

“If you’re really concerned about it, why didn’t we put $6 million in the governor’s budget to deal with prevention? Because it’s already legal and people are using it,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D- Bennington District.

In his testimony Thursday, Donovan also doubled down on his support for expunging marijuana convictions on a case by case basis.

“The system has been incredibly disparate in its treatment towards people,” he said.

Testimony on the matter is set to wrap up next week. The bill would than head to the Senate floor, where half the members are listed as sponsors of the bill.

With the current plan, the state would issue its first retail license in 2021.

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