Marijuana should be decided by ballot
Legalizing recreational marijuana will have an outsize impact on Vermont if 3.2 million nonresident users living conveniently within 200 miles in states where it remains illegal are added to 80 thousand resident users — five marijuana users per Vermonter — the RAND Corporation Drug Policy Research Center report commissioned by our legislators warns us (pp. 156, 18; U.S. Census Bureau).
State-by-state, legalizing recreational marijuana is creating a national marijuana industry like the tobacco industry where, at least initially, there may be a niche market for premium Vermont marijuana.
Seizing their opportunity for riches, marijuana entrepreneurs and their financiers will outbid thrifty, conventional Vermont farmers to lease or buy agricultural land and buildings for their very valuable crop that must be grown, processed and sold here to an influx of marijuana tourists displacing other tourists, especially families.
Dibs on diversifying to individually grow and cooperatively process and wholesale premium Vermont marijuana and marijuana products would protect and reward experienced Vermont farmers working so long and hard to preserve our cherished rural Vermont and their livelihoods.
They could employ former clandestine marijuana growers and processors, who lack necessary knowledge and experience of professional agriculture, legal and regulatory compliance, environmental stewardship and ethical marketing.
Like voters elsewhere, Vermonters should decide by Australian ballot whether to legalize recreational marijuana for residents or for nonresidents and give dibs on marijuana agriculture to conventional Vermont farmers.
There is a precedent: In 1936, the governor and a majority of legislators endorsed the ridgeline Green Mountain Parkway, but allowed town-meeting voters to decide whether it should change Vermont.