September 2020 Poll: Support For Legal Pot Sales Grows Since July 2018
Vermont could be getting a tax and regulate market for the sale of marijuana. The Legislature gave final approval to the cannabis bill this week, and it’s now in the hands of Gov. Phil Scott.
According to the latest VPR-Vermont PBS poll, most Vermonters support the move. The poll found that that 68% of all Vermonters support a tax-and-regulate system that's controlled by the government.
And support seems to have grown over time. VPR and Vermont PBS did a poll two years ago when cannabis cultivation and consumption was first legalized, and at that time, only 56% supported a retail market for commercial sales, a full 12 percentage points less than the new poll.
“Vermont has I think some of the highest usage of cannabis of all the states in the country,” said Rep. John Gannon, vice chair of the House Government Operations Committee. “So I think people have probably gotten more comfortable with it.”
The new poll finds that support has grown with both Democrats and Republicans: 77% of Democrats said they thought it made sense to set up a regulated system.
The number of people who support legal marijuana sales has also increased across all age groups. For people between the ages of 45 and 64, support jumped by more than 20 percentage points in the past two years, and 74% of people in that age group said there should be a legal market for pot.
Gannon says the poll numbers reflect what he’s heard from fellow lawmakers, and that while the House wasn’t ready to move a bill in 2018, there was recognition now that it was time to set up a tax-and-regulate system.
“There’s just a general interest of protecting Vermonters,” Gannon said. “I think that perhaps we made a mistake when we legalized cannabis a couple of years ago without providing any form of regulation, and I think people realized that.”
"I think people have probably gotten more comfortable with it." — Rep. John Gannon, House Government Operations Committee
Support in the latest poll was uneven across the different regions in the state.
In southern Vermont, where legal weed is already available over the Massachusetts state line, support was strong, at 73%, which is higher than the state average. Between 2018 and 2020 — since the legal sales have been available in Massachusetts — support in that southern region jumped by 14%.
In northern Vermont support was weakest, with only 59% saying they favored legal sales. In Chittenden County, the number was 64%.
“Well, I think there is a recognition that there are out-of-state customers,” said Jessica Bartlett, a reporter with Boston Business Journal covering the cannabis industry in Massachusetts. “I mean, just from the licenses that get presented when someone purchases cannabis, to the license plates that come driving through their parking lot, I mean, they know that people are coming from New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut.”
A 2015 report found that Vermont could see $20-75 million a year in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana.
"The revenue will come in slower than you think. But over the long-term, it's likely to increase your tax rolls, create more employment, and, with hope, draw down the black market." — Jessica Bartlett, Boston Business Journal
Bartlett just completed an analysis of the cannabis tax revenues in Massachusetts after two years of regulated sales, and she says that while Massachusetts brought in $122 million the last two fiscal years, that’s lower than most analysts predicted.
The roll out took a little longer than expected, though Bartlett says local communities that have allowed pot shops are seeing a benefit from the new revenues.
“I think the state’s advice to Vermont would be to appreciate that it’s going to take longer than you think,’ Bartlett said. “The revenue will come in slower than you think. But over the long-term, it’s likely to increase your tax rolls, create more employment, and, with hope, draw down the black market.”
A Cannabis Control Board will decide how much money local Vermont communities will receive for allowing pot shops and growing operations within their borders.
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From Sept. 3 to Sept. 15, the VPR - Vermont PBS 2020 Poll asked hundreds of Vermonters how they felt about political candidates, a COVID-19 vaccine, retail marijuana and other issues. Explore the full results here.