By Marguerite Arnold
2016 is already shaping up to be another revolutionary year on the legalization front. California is likely to lead the way as voters in the state tee up to pass recreational reform, an event that has gestated since 1996. State ballot initiatives next year will play a critical role in onward progress, especially in a year when both Democratic hopefuls for the White House have moved light years ahead in their thoughts on marijuana, even Clinton now supports rescheduling.
However, what is going on in Vermont right now may be equally impactful, far beyond the borders of perhaps the East Coast’s most liberal state.
Vermont’s state legislature is set to become the first in the country to legalize a recreational industry without being pushed, prodded or forced to do the same by state voters in a special voter initiative—the force that so far has pushed both medical and recreational reform to where they are today in every other state.
In fact, Vermont legislators have already drafted a bipartisan bill, S.241, to introduce as soon as next year’s legislative session begins.
The proposal would:
- Allow for 86 storefronts
- Permit up to 42 cannabis lounges across the state which would also have limited commercial sales rights
- Prohibit edibles
- Require state residency to operate a recreational establishment
- Limit purchases by state residents to one ounce at a time and non-residents to a quarter ounce at a time.
- Limit commercial growers to 40,000 square feet plots
Issues that are still to be determined include both taxation rates and permitting. That said, however, this is a significant development.
As Aaron LoCascio, the CEO of VapeWorld commented, “It is encouraging each time we see another domino topple in regard to antiquated laws being revised and updated. Some of the most savvy political minds are now involved in not only drafting these new laws, but seeing them through to their final outcome. We fully expect to see this trend continue as awareness leads to understanding.”
LoCascio is not alone. Nor for that matter is Vermont, in intent or geography.
Strategically, a new recreational market in Vermont will impact regional legalization. It is also likely that Massachusetts voters may legalize recreational use next year as well, creating a green tint, if not business vertical, in New England.
With Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada forming a strong block in the West, not to mention Colorado’s continued progress in the middle of the country, it could very well be that the approval of Vermont’s legislature will act as an important strategic domino for the entire legalization discussion not only next year but for the entire legalization checkerboard for years to come.