By Nathan Terry
On Jan. 22, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed Vermont’s marijuana legalization bill into law. The bill states that Vermonters over the age of 21 are now allowed to possess an ounce of week and to grow a few plants. Under St. Michael’s College rules, students over the age of 21 may now possess up to the legal limit in marijuana as long as they are not on the campus grounds. The new law, once signed, goes into effect July 1st, meaning that students would have to wait until to take advantage of their new off campus freedom.
Vermont Lt. Gov. Dave Zuckerman, a big proponent of the bill, said he was pleased that the bill was finally signed after years of arguing for the legalization of marijuana. “Although I think this bill is short of where we ought to be, this is an important step for the state legislature,” Zuckerman said.
Zuckerman also said that many people will benefit from the new bill, since people will now be able to buy cannabis from licensed stores as opposed to the open market where they cannot guarantee the effects of the cannabis they were buying. Zuckerman said he believes that with more awareness between smokers due to the legalization, people will become more social as a result. “People will also become more aware of other people who smoke cannabis. In the past, people have had to be secretive about smoking, whereas now people will now know if their colleagues smoke, which can lead to more social interactions.”
Ryan Wurmsdobler ’19 believes that the new bill can have mixed effects on students. “If people want to grow it for themselves then go ahead. The law might foster a culture of more marijuana users, and could become especially common for this next generation,” Wurmsdobler said. “Students will find loopholes around the campus policy. I hope they realize that there are other students around them who don’t enjoy the smell of marijuana smoke, and that they are respectful of that.”
Jameson Connor ’18 said he is glad Vermont legislation passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana rather than leave it up to a vote. “I think that there is a stigma against people who smoke marijuana. Hopefully this bill will make people more accepting of people who smoke.”
In an interview, Gov. Scott expressed concern for passing the bill, but said ultimately the bill is what voters wanted. “We are representatives of the people. They have signaled that this is what we want, and while we may disagree, we will see where this goes in the future. This is a small step compared to what the other eight states [that have legalized recreational marijuana] have done in terms of the retail market.”
Gov. Scott also stated that he was very concerned about the effects of the bill on younger citizens. “I am incredibly concerned about impairment on our highways, I am concerned on the effects on our kids and their learning abilities, and other things that we will learn from other states. We will have to live and learn and see what happens in the future.”
Director of Public Safety Doug Babcock said that he believes that the new bill will add confusion to students about what is legal in the state compared to what is allowed on campus. “The campus, with the information that we have right now, isn’t going to be able to allow the use of marijuana even after it is legal in the state because of federal regulations.” Because the school recieves some federal funds, it must comply with federal regulations that have not legalized recreational use of marijuana. Babcock stressed that the college will be making the effort to communicate that marijuana will not be allowed on campus in any form, and any consumption by students 21 or older would have to be off campus. Any marijuana discovered on campus will be disposed of immediately, as it is now. Babcock said that he believes marijuana today is much more dangerous than it used to be. “This is not your weed from the 70s. If what was out on the street today was what was out on the street in the 70s, I would have much less concern about this.”