The Study That Could Shape the Future of Marijuana in Vermont and the Rest of the Country (Firedoglake)

By JON WALKER | July 30, 2014

Vermont is poised to potentially make marijuana reform history. While two states have already legalized marijuana and two more states could join them this November, in all these states the issue has advanced through the initiative process. Pro-legalization groups wrote their own laws and collected signatures to put them on the ballot, but that tactic can’t be copied in most states. Vermont, on the other hand, is positioned to be the first state to legalize marijuana via state legislature.

Given that the federal government and over half the states don’t allow ballot initiatives, how Vermont proceeds could set the actual precedent for most of the country.

Vermont lawmakers are preparing for a serious discussion about legalization at the beginning of next year and recently commissioned a study by the RAND Corporation of its potential implications. The study should play a big role in shaping the debate locally and potentially beyond.

I interviewed Beau Kilmer, the study’s leader and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, who is really excited to be working on such a potentially important project despite the very tight January deadline. While it is still in the very early stages, Kilmer is planning for the study to be comprised of three main pieces:

1) Assessing the current marijuana landscape in Vermont – The first part will provide a very good idea of where things stand. It will assess factors like the current rate of use, the size of the black market, and the cost of current enforcement. “That is not only just useful for helping to make projections later on, but also for helping to prevent some of these debates from being hijacked with really big numbers like we have seen in other places,” Kilmer said.

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