MONTPELIER, Vt. — Frustrated by a lack of action on marijuana legalization, two Vermont lawmakers are trying a new tack: No pot, no booze.
Progressive Rep. Chris Pearson and Democratic Rep. Jean O’Sullivan, both from Burlington, held a news conference Wednesday to announce they had filed legislation to ban the sale of alcohol in Vermont.
Both called the idea “laughable,” but said they are trying to further their arguments that marijuana is less harmful to individuals and to society than alcohol and should be legalized for adults.
“Whereas prohibiting the sale and possession of alcohol is a laughable suggestion, the commonsense reaction against this idea should be the same logic we use to consider the continued prohibition of marijuana,” Pearson said.
O’Sullivan said their purpose was “to point out that we currently have a drug that is legal and is way more dangerous than pot, and just trying to shine a bright light on this and say ‘get moving.'”
Legalization bills have been filed in the House and Senate this year, but are seen as unlikely to come to a vote in either chamber. The Senate Government Operations Committee has been holding weekly meetings on Friday afternoons to study the issue.
Pearson offered a long list of statistics to buttress his argument.
Marijuana increases the odds of a fatal crash by 83 percent; alcohol by 575 percent, Pearson said.
“A 2014 study associated lower incidence of violence in the first nine years of marriage among marijuana users compared to nonusers,” Pearson added. “By comparison, annually U.S. college students report over 450,000 incidents of alcohol-related violence.”
Asked if either of them was a current marijuana user, O’Sullivan said, “From time to time in a legal environment, like when I visit my son in Seattle.” Pearson replied, “From time to time.”
O’Sullivan said marijuana currently is a $200 million-a-year black market in Vermont, and said bringing it “out of the shadows” would be a boon to the state’s economy.
Vermont has seen a boon in small specialty foods businesses making everything from fudge to salsa to craft beer in recent years. Matching that type of business to the marijuana edibles market would be a winner for the state, she said.
“Let the entrepreneurs really build a business around this,” she said.
In the current black market, young people often are exposed to people who are selling not just pot, but harder drugs as well, she said.
“It’s a danger to our kids that they’re going to dealers who deal everything,” she said.