Vermont lawmakers on the fence about a bill to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana sales in the state might want to consult a poll on the issue that was released on Tuesday.
Days before an expected House vote on legal cannabis commerce legislation, a new survey commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) shows that 76 percent of Vermont residents are in favor of allowing adults to purchase marijuana “from regulated, taxpaying small businesses.”
Currently, cannabis is legal to possess and cultivate for personal use in the state, but adults lack a means to legally purchase the products.
According to the survey, which involved phone interviews with 890 state residents from February 14-15, Vermonters are ready for a change.
Majorities across all demographics said they favor allowing recreational marijuana sales. That includes 58 percent of Republicans and Trump voters as well as 69 percent of those 65 and older.
Survey participants were also asked to weigh in on the state’s current non-commercial system and medical cannabis program. Eighty-seven percent said the medical program should remain in effect and 78 percent said they approve of continuing to allow adults to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use.
“Cannabis is legal for adults in Vermont, so it should come as no surprise that three out of four Vermonters believe there should be a safe, legal way to obtain it,” Matt Simon, New England political director at MPP, said in a press release. “Legalizing and regulating cannabis sales will protect consumers, and it will create jobs and economic opportunities for small businesses.”
“It makes no sense for Vermonters to continue buying from the illicit market, or from retail stores in Massachusetts, when small businesses in Vermont are capable of producing high-quality craft cannabis,” he said. “House members should consider this overwhelming public support when they cast their votes on S. 54.”
That bill was heard in the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday and has been the topic of several discussions before that panel over the past week. It’s already been approved by the Government Operations and Ways & Means Committees this year.
Once Appropriations approves the legislation and any amendments its members support, expected in the coming days, it will next head to the House floor for a vote by the full body.
Last year, the Senate approved the commercial cannabis sales measure. Though it had stalled in the House before lawmakers went home for the year, it is still alive in the two-year session and legislative leaders have expressed optimism that it will pass in 2020.
The legislation advancing in the House would create various classes of marijuana business licenses, establish a government agency to regulate the market and set tax rates on legal sales. It would also set limits on product potency, capping THC in cannabis flower at 30 percent THC and limiting concentrates to 60 percent THC.
Gov. Phil Scott (R) previously voiced opposition to allowing a retail marijuana market, but a top lawmaker and administration officials have indicated that he’s now “at the table” in discussions about the proposal and is considering using some tax revenue to fund an after-school program he’s backing.
This latest poll shows significantly different results than a separate one recently conducted by Emerson College that was touted by the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches To Marijuana.
BREAKING: According to a new poll conducted by Emerson College, 70 percent of Vermont voters oppose the commercialization and taxation of marijuana. pic.twitter.com/K1WLxDnEbI
— SAM (@learnaboutsam) February 10, 2020
But the framing of that survey of 400 state residents was different, with pollsters asking whether individuals favor “full legalization allowing corporate sales, production, and advertising” as one option in a single question that also included the current possession and cultivation policy, medical cannabis and outright criminalization.
Only 30 percent of respondents said they back the full legalization concept, with 37 percent saying they support the current non-commercial model, 18 percent endorsing medical cannabis only and 15 calling for prohibition across the board.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.