Why Vermont’s Medical Marijuana and Decriminalization Laws Are Not Enough

Vermont’s medical marijuana law provides safe, legal access for about 2,400 patients suffering from serious medical conditions. However, it is one of the most restrictive medical marijuana laws in the nation, and it excludes patients suffering from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and moderate chronic pain. As a result, registered patients comprise only a tiny percentage of Vermont’s market demand for marijuana.

  • Vermont’s medical marijuana law excludes the vast majority of patients who find relief from marijuana. Only about 0.2% of Vermonters are registered medical marijuana patients, while a 2013 Pew Research poll shows about 6% of Americans use marijuana wholly or partly for medical use.
  • Absent a system of regulated production and sale, the rest of the marijuana consumed in Vermont must be supplied by illicit dealers.

In 2013, Vermont took an important step towards sensible marijuana policy by decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. This reform has resulted in a more efficient use of limited resources in our criminal justice system, and it has allowed law enforcement professionals to focus more of their attention on serious and violent crimes. But it is not enough.

  • Decriminalization prevents marijuana users from being charged with a crime for simple possession, but it does not impact the illegal supply chain. As long as the production and sale of marijuana remain illegal, prohibition will continue to enrich and empower gangs and cartels while undermining public safety and damaging the environment.
  • Decriminalization does not adequately protect minors, who can easily access marijuana in our current, unregulated market. Illicit drug dealers do not check IDs, and they sometimes sell far more dangerous drugs. State-regulated marijuana retailers would only sell to adults 21 and over, and marijuana obtained on the regulated market would be tested and labeled.
  • Decriminalization does not create jobs, produce tax revenues, or stimulate local economies. Only by regulating the production and sale of marijuana can these benefits be realized.