A bill that would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana has won joint approval in the Vermont Legislature.
The Vermont Legislature has passed a measure that calls for the legalization of recreational marijuana. If Gov. Phil Scott signs the measure into law, Virginia will become the ninth U.S. state to legalize adult use marijuana. The bill, S.22, was approved in the Vermont House of Representatives last week by a vote of 79-66.
The passing of the bill marks the first recreational marijuana measure to be approved by a state’s legislature. The other eight states with adult use marijuana laws on the books – Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Maine, Nevada, and Massachusetts – as well as Washington D.C., had their measures approved through public vote.
“I think it reflects that Vermont elected officials are more in touch with our constituents than a lot of elected officials in other states,” said Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman. “I think the public is ahead of us, but elected officials tend to be cautious when it comes to change.”
The bill, if enacted, would legalize possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, two mature marijuana plants or four immature marijuana plants for adults aged 21 and older. The law would also establish a nine-member commission to study how best to regulate marijuana and present its findings and recommendations to the legislature and Governor. The law will take effect July 1, 2018 if Scott signs or doesn’t veto the measure.
Whether or not Scott will sign the bill is unclear. While he’s alluded to being open to investigating the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana, he has made it clear that he doesn’t believe “right now” is the right time for Vermont to pass the law. He’s suggested that waiting to see how the marijuana programs play out in other states first is best.
“I don’t believe this is a priority for Vermont,” Scott said. I believe that what we should be doing is trying to find ways to protect those on our highways, deliver a level of impairment that is consistent throughout the Northeast, as well as to address the edibles for our kids before we move forward with legalization. Having said that, I’m going to review the bill as it’s passed.”
A Public Policy Polling survey conducted in March found that 57 percent of Vermont voters support legalizing marijuana possession for adults, while only 39 percent of residents oppose.
“The Legislature has taken a crucial step toward ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition. There is no rational reason to continue punishing adults for consuming a substance that is safer than alcohol,” said Matt Simon, political director of the New England chapter of Marijuana Policy Project.
“It’s time for Vermont to move forward with a more sensible marijuana policy,” Simon added. “The voters and the Legislature are behind it, and we hope the governor will be too.”
If the law is enacted, Vermont will be the third state on the East Coast to pass recreational marijuana legislation. Legislators in Connecticut and Rhode Island are currently considering similar adult use laws.
The Vermont Legislature also just recently expanded the state’s list of conditions that quality for medical marijuana.