BENNINGTON >> Citizens will have a chance to tell their state senators what they think about marijuana legalization, in person, this Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said his committee will be at the Bennington Fire Facility, 130 River Street, on Jan. 18 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. They will then travel to Brattleboro Union High School in Brattleboro for a 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. meeting, then to Springfield for 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. This, provided what the weather allows.
They will hold other forums at a later date, he said. The goal is to get opinions from people who can not easily get to Montpelier.
"The forum will be an opportunity for our constituents to give their opinion on marijuana legalizations," Sears said, particularly whether or not it should be legalized for recreational purposes.
People will be asked to sign in before they speak and limited their comments to between five and eight minutes in length.
Sears committee is responsible for drafting the bill that may go before the legislature this term. The committee will be taking testimony from a group of Vermonters who visited Colorado over the summer, where recreational marijuana is legal
He said he remains neutral on the subject, but is in agreement with Governor Peter Shumlin on what the bill should cover.
Shumlin, in his State of the State Address on Thursday, said that there are five elements a marijuana legalization bill would need before he signs it. First, a legal market must keep marijuana away from children. Second, the taxes on marijuana must be low enough eliminate the illegal market. Third, the tax revenue must go towards expanding addiction prevention programs. Fourth, law enforcement must have a greater ability to respond to drivers under the influence of marijuana, and fifth, "...take a hard lesson learned from other states and ban the sale of edibles until other states figure out how to do it right."
Sears said it's his understanding that other states that have legalized marijuana have been experiencing difficulties in some of the areas the governor outlined.