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Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don't stand in the doorway

Don't block up the hall

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

The battle outside ragin'

Will soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin'

— Bob Dylan

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Well, here we are. We have a New World these days and it appears as though this world is going to be with us for a while. We went from doing sort of OK to crashing in a few short weeks. Should we have seen it coming? You bet. The warning signs were there, but those who should've been listening didn't seem to hear it. But that's yesterday's news.

Our New World requires new attire; gloves and masks have gone from apparel only to be worn in the winter to becoming a fashion statement. I even saw an ad for a mask emblazoned with the cover of the Beatles' "Abby Road" album. I almost bought it, but I didn't want to date myself. Although I guess you wouldn't know it was me behind that mask now, would you?

Our economy has tanked and we now have more people filing for unemployment than any other time since the Great Depression. From Forbes: "In the last six weeks — March 15 through April 25 — 30,307,000 people filed for unemployment for the first time, according to the most recent and updated Department of Labor figures. Add that to March's 7,140,000 unemployed figure sampled in the second week of the month, so predating the filings, and the total is more than 37 million. With a civilian labor force of 162,913,000, that's 23 percent unemployment."

It only took six weeks. Six weeks from having near-record-low unemployment to record high unemployment. COVID-19 has hit our old world hard. We will recover, but not quickly and it won't be easy. It's time to rethink our old ways and think about what's in store with our New World.

First, we must accept the obvious. Our government cannot print money endlessly without severe ramifications. Bailouts are great if they're paid back. The $2-trillion-plus bailout passed by Congress will not be paid back. We're out of the cash. States are going to be faced with unprecedented fiscal decisions. Vermont was smart. We have what's known as a "rainy day fund" where we set aside money in the event of something horrible happening. Something horrible has happened and we will now need to draw down those funds to make up what might be as much as a $170 million shortfall.

Like the other 49 states, Vermont is going to need all the revenue it can get. It's time to go after the low-hanging fruit. It's time for Vermont to regulate and legalize the sale of marijuana and to do so in a way that best supports our local growers. Vermont could receive millions in new revenues by legalizing pot, while simultaneously helping Vermonters who are already growing pot for the black market. Helping these folks to come out of the shadows and legally do what they are doing would be an added benefit.

This should no longer be seen as a heavy lift. From Vermont Business Magazine: "A new poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project found that an overwhelming 76 percent of Vermont residents support allowing adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses. The poll was conducted on February 14-15 and surveyed 890 residents from across the state. Notably, the results show that legalizing and regulating cannabis sales is supported across all demographic groups, including Republicans (58 percent) and residents 65 and older (69 percent). Vermont's most educated residents are overwhelmingly in favor (84 percent), and only a small minority of Vermonters (19 percent) remain opposed."

Think about that. In a time when our nation has not been this divided since the Civil War, 76 percent of Vermonters agree on one thing: that it is time to legalize pot. Not only does legalization enjoy broad support from all factions of Vermonters, it's now an obvious and much needed revenue source for our great state. Most of the New England states have already beaten us to the punch and legalized the retail selling of pot. Inasmuch as Vermont has always been THE leader for great initiatives like environmental protection, education and banning billboards, it has always struck me as odd that we weren't the very first state to regulate and legalize pot.

Whatever the reasons for not doing so have now faded away with our old world. In our New World, a world in which we will be forced to live without the revenues of the old world, it's clear that the time has come to accept the will of the majority. The time has come to secure the most obvious revenue source available to us. The time has come to stop standing in the doorway and blocking the hall.

The time has finally arrived to help our local farmers/growers to prosper. It's time to do the right thing. It's time to regulate and legalize the sale of marijuana.

Bob Stannard writes a regular column for the Bennington Banner. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.