Marijuana study to focus on use, costs and precedents


The Rand Corp. met late last month with the Shumlin administration to lay out plans for a study on the impact of legalizing marijuana in Vermont.

Rand researcher Beau Kilmer, who will lead the project, met with Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding and an internal working group, including representatives from the Agency of Agriculture and the departments of Public Safety, Health and Liquor Control, to discuss a preliminary work plan for the study.

The study will be used to inform lawmakers on the benefits and pitfalls of legalization.

"We have a lot of experience working in this field and working together," Klimer said. "I'm confident we'll be able to produce a product that will serve as a nice foundation for serious dialogue on this controversial issue."

The study will include three sections. Rand will "assess the marijuana landscape" in Vermont, estimating the size of market and usage across the state, and the cost for the criminal justice system in prohibiting the substance. The study will also look at lessons learned from Colorado's and Washington's marijuana legalization laws and lay out Vermont's policy options for taxation and regulation.

"There's a lot of policy space between prohibition and what those states are doing," Kilmer said.

The Rand study will also discuss taxing potential.

"What we're not going to say is that Vermont should definitely or definitely not legalize marijuana," he said.

The study was mandated by the Legislature. Rand will present its findings to the Legislature by Jan. 15.

State Health Commissioner Harry Chen said he "can't be supportive" of legalization.

"Marijuana is the number one reasons adolescents seek treatment in Vermont," he said. Nevertheless, Chen said he doesn't oppose the Rand study because he wants lawmakers' decision to be rooted in facts, rather than speculation.

"I can sit here and say 'no way, no how,' but I want to have all the information to make an informed decision," Chen said.

Gov. Peter Shumlin says he will wait for Rand's report to formulate an opinion on marijuana legalization.


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