On 7 January Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin laid out the primary plans to legalise marijuana in the state during his annual State Of The State address pointing out that "the outdated 'war on drugs' has also failed and there is no greater example than our nation's marijuana laws". He pointed out that over 80,000 Vermonters had reported purchasing cannabis illegally over the last year even though marijuana possession had been decriminalised in the state in 2013. "The black market of drug dealers selling marijuana for recreational use is alive and well," he said.
Building up to his proposal, he explained how black-market sales meant a lack of regulations. "These illegal dealers couldn't care less how young their customers are or what's in the product they sell, or what illegal drugs you buy from their stash, much less whether they pay taxes on their earnings."
Shumlin commended the 2013 ruling along with Vermont's steps to "change our criminal penalties and to institute a well-regulated medical marijuana system".
"This careful approach shows that we know how to regulate marijuana thoughtfully and cautiously, avoiding the pitfalls that have caused other states to stumble where Vermont succeeded," he said.
Hoping to end the "era of prohibition" with a bill to legalise marijuana, the governor stressed that it would need to be done "thoughtfully and carefully" after learning from the mistakes of other states.
He listed five necessities the bill needs to feature for him to sign it. These include prohibition of sale to under-age children, low tax in order to wipe out the black market, use of revenue to expand addiction prevention programmes, strengthening of law enforcement's capacity and a ban on the sale of edibles until it can be properly controlled.
"I understand that the Senate will go first and I look forward to working with Senate Pro Tem John Campbell, Senate Leadership, Senator Sears and the Senate Judiciary Committee to construct a sensible, cautious bill," he added.
The pro-legalisation Drug Policy Alliance applauded Shumlin's move and said that other governors should follow suit. "I'm hopeful this is the start of a new trend," said Ethan Nadelmann, the group's executive director.