Vermont Senate votes in favor of a marijuana legalize and regulate bill

Vermont

The Vermont Senate voted 21-9 this morning to approve a bill today that would regulate the production and sale of marijuana, tax those sales, and eliminate penalties for personal possession and cultivation by adults 21 and older. The House-passed bill (amended by Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham) will receive one final vote before returning to the House for consideration. The amendment rides on the back of criminal justice bill H. 167, which at first was deemed ungermane to the original bill but a 23-7 Senate vote allowed the marijuana legalization language to be applied anyway. White opened up the session saying, “We know that prohibition has not worked,” she said. “It’s an underground market; it doesn’t serve kids, adults, (the general public’s best interest), except for the drug dealers.”

The amended proposal updates a legalization bill that the Senate passed last year to allow for possession and sale of taxed marijuana starting in 2019. Lawmakers were spurred into action out of frustration over how H. 170 was treated. You may remember that H. 170 showed a lot of promise but was taken off of the agenda the week of “crossover day” because several of its supportive members were absent on the day of the vote. It is still somewhat alive, but it received no further votes after returning to the committee level and now is at risk of being deadpooled.

H. 167, on the other hand, includes some even more daring marijuana measures, like allowing unlimited small-scale cultivation licenses for producers no larger than 500-square-feet. What is doesn’t allow is driving under the influence, edible forms of marijuana, or for schools, municipalities, parole boards, employers, or landlords to penalizing marijuana use. Last year’s S. 241 failed when it reached the House (and it did not include a provision on home cultivation) it is safe to say that H. 167  is not likely to woo the House either before the legislative session comes to a close in early-May.

Survey says: most of the “Green Mountain State” would be happy to get even greener

Most Vermont voters are for the policy changes proposed in H. 167 and H. 170, according to one survey. Fifty-seven percent support allowing adults 21 and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana, and 54% support regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol.

“Most Vermonters think marijuana should be made legal for adults, and they’re looking to lawmakers to come up with a plan,” says Marijuana Policy Project’s Matt Simon in this morning’s press release. “We applaud the Senate for approving a sensible alternative to marijuana prohibition that would account for public health and improve public safety. We would love to see the House step up and join the Senate in supporting this sensible reform. If the House isn’t willing to support the Senate’s proposal, it at least needs to support its own Judiciary Committee’s plan and pass H. 170.”

Vermont has already legalized medical cannabis and decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. It’s not clear how the House will rule on this new Senate-approved bill, but the bold language is something the House is unlikely to embrace.

For more, please see the VT Senate 2017 Legalization Proposal moments page on Twitter.

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