The Vermont Senate will vote for the final time on an adult-use marijuana bill on Jan. 10. Lawmakers are expected to approve the legislation, which would make Vermont the first state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana through a state legislature.
Last week, the Vermont House of Representatives narrowly approved the bill with several minor amendments. The 81-63 vote in the House followed earlier Senate approval in 2017. On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on those amendments.
The bill would then land on Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s desk. Scott vetoed a marijuana bill last year, citing driver safety concerns, though he has publicly supported the legislative language in this current bill, H. 551. The governor worked closely with state legislators in crafting this latest language.
As the Burlington Free Press reports, this bill would legalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Adult residents will be allowed to grow their own plants at home (two mature plants or four immature plants at a time). As of now, the Senate bill does not create a legal market for sales or taxation.
And as the Senate prepares for its vote, the governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission will prepare its next report on safety and regulatory issues, due out Jan. 15. Republican lawmakers expressed concerns on the House floor last week that this bill is getting ahead of state law enforcement’s efforts to promote safety and develop field sobriety tests for drivers.
Note, too, that last week’s House vote took place on the same day that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era federal policy memos that protected state-legal cannabis businesses and banks that do business with them.
“It is becoming clear that states are tired of helping the federal government enforce outdated and harmful marijuana polices and are ready to make this legal for adults,” Matthew Schweich, interim executive director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a public statement last week. “The Vermont Legislature’s action underscores that states will continue leading the way toward more humane, sensible marijuana policies even if this administration reverts to the cruel and counterproductive federal policies of the past.”
The Vermont Senate vote comes one day after the New Hampshire House approved a similar adult-use marijuana bill.
Top photo courtesy of Marc Nozell, Wikimedia
Source: Cannabis Business Times