Barely three months after successfully passing legislation to legalize low-level marijuana possession and home cultivation, Vermont lawmakers are pushing to add a statewide system of taxed and regulated cannabis sales.
A coalition of Democratic, Republican and Progressive lawmakers in the House moved on Thursday to take up marijuana commercialization legislation that already passed the Senate last year.
“I believe we have the votes, and I believe at the end of the day we will have a surprising number of votes with a tripartisan coalition,” Dave Silberman, a Middlebury attorney and pro bono drug policy reform advocate, told Marijuana Moment in an interview.
House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D), however, said that now is not the time to push broader legalization, and Gov. Phil Scott (R), who only reluctantly signed the noncommercial legalization bill into law in January after previously vetoing another version, is unlikely to support the expansion.
Silberman said that supportive lawmakers are moving to amend the Senate-passed bill, H.167, with a focus on smaller-scale businesses and co-ops. He added that a significant number of lawmakers who have concerns with legalization and opposed the earlier bill are now more likely to back moves to regulate the cannabis trade in light of the fact that possession and homegrow will be legal in the state starting on July 1.
“Quite a few said, ‘now that it’s legal, I think tax-and-regulate’s a better model,’” Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (VPP) told VPR radio. “So if Progressives, the Republicans that think this is the better way, and the many Democrats that inherently support this come together, I think we have a majority.”
The bill and several proposed amendments have been placed on the House calendar for Friday, but it is unlikely to see action until next week.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Vermont Lawmakers Push To Expand Marijuana Legalization
In the United States, citizens of Washington DC, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State all voted in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis. The next state to join the marijuana movement might be Vermont, but they are taking a different route. Instead of the voters, it is Governor Peter Shumlin and the state Legislature who are discussing the bill. Vermont may be the first state in which lawmakers, not voters, legalize marijuana.
Vermont has a slightly different state Constitution than most other states like Colorado and Washington. The Green Mountain State prohibits ballot referendums and initiatives by voters. In other words, if Vermont wants to change a law, like the prohibition of marijuana, that decision has to come directly from the lawmakers, not voters.
David Zuckerman, a progressive senator from the state’s most populous county, is in charge of introducing the legalization bill to the state Legislature. Zuckerman is proud of Vermont’s ability to have an open door policy for its 439,734 registered voters. “It’s pretty easy to give us a call, and we’ll call you back,” Zuckerman says. Zuckerman and his associates are confident that they are representing the citizens’ best interests with this bill. “I think there is a wait-and-see attitude on the part of many,” Zuckerman said. “There’s also a let’s-get-there-and-get-it-done attitude.”
Eric Davis, professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT, does not think that the state lawmakers are ready for a change in legislation. “My sense is the Legislature here will move toward legalization, but not for two or three years so they can learn more from the experiences of Washington and Colorado,” he said.
George Merkel, on the other hand, opposes the legislation entirely. Merkel, who is the president of the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police, thinks that the Legislature is only motivated by the potential profit of legalizing marijuana, not because that is what the citizens want.
The Pros and Cons
A report commissioned by Governor Shumlin concluded that Vermont’s marijuana taxes could generate as low as twenty million dollars to as high as seventy five million dollars per year. Additional income could come from another “pro” — an increase in tourism. Vermont would potentially have a monopoly over other north eastern states if they act quickly. Smokers in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and basically any recreational cannabis user east of the Mississippi River and north of DC would likely travel to Vermont. However, lawmakers are conscious that this pro could quickly turn into a con if other nearby states decide to participate. Their neighbor, Rhode Island, is also considering a similar bill.
“Over the next two years, as more states gear up to consider legalization ballot measures, I predict that more governors, and even some U.S. senators, will say that it’s time to end marijuana prohibition,” said Tom Angell of the pro-legalization Marijuana Majority. “Polls now consistently show that a majority of voters supports legalization, and there’s a growing expectation that elected officials will finally start to address this issue in the way their constituents have been demanding.”