(Reuters) - Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said on Thursday he would seek to legalize marijuana through the legislative process, instead of through the ballot box, for the first time in the United States.
In his State of the State address, the Democratic governor said more than 80,000 Vermonters reported using marijuana last year, contributing to a black market. He said legislators needed to proceed step by step to regulate marijuana.
"That's why I will work with you to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably," he said, according to a copy of the address on his website.
Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana after holding voter referendums. Vermont is among almost 20 states that have decriminalized marijuana possession.
Shumlin said a pot measure should include a legal market to keep marijuana and other drugs out of the hands of minors, a tax law enough to destroy the black market, and a ban on sale of edible marijuana.
Revenue from pot taxes must be used to boost addiction prevention, and police helped in dealing with impaired drivers, he said.
The pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance hailed Shumlin's move and said other governors should suit.
"I'm hopeful this is the start of a new trend," said Ethan Nadelmann, the group's executive director.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Richard Chang)