Michigan and Vermont took procedural steps toward legalizing marijuana on Thursday, part of growing momentum behind efforts to end cannabis prohibition in states across the country.
A legalization bill approved by the Vermont legislature earlier this month was officially transmitted to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott (R). He now has until midnight on Wednesday to sign or veto it, or allow it to go into law without his signature.
The legislation would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and allow people to grow two mature plants and four seedlings at home, effective July 2018. The proposal would also create a commission to study legalizing and taxing marijuana and issue recommendations to the legislature later this year.
Scott hasn’t yet announced what he will do. But although he says he isn’t philosophically opposed to legalization, he has expressed reservations about road safety and children’s access to edibles.
In Michigan, the Board of State Canvassers formally approved for signature gathering a proposed legalization initiative that activists are trying to place on the state’s 2018 midterm ballot. They must now collect 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters in order to qualify the measure.
If passed by voters, the initiative would legalize and tax marijuana sales and production in the state. It would also allow homegrow.
The two Thursday developments are just the latest in a series of state moves toward ending cannabis prohibition in recent weeks.
Earlier this week, Connecticut’s Senate president and House speaker included marijuana legalization in their revised budget proposal. Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) doesn’t support ending prohibition, but it is unclear if he would go so far as to veto the state’s budget if it is passed including the marijuana provisions.
Also this week, a New Jersey senator filed a marijuana legalization bill. While current Gov. Chris Christie (R) is strongly opposed, his term ends early next year and several candidates vying to replace him in this November’s election have said they support ending prohibition. The Senate president recently took a fact-finding trip to tour Colorado’s marijuana industry and said upon his return that he is “committed” to pushing legalization as soon as a new governor is inaugurated.
In Delaware, the House Revenue and Finance Committee approved a marijuana legalization bill by a vote of 9-2 last week.
New Hampshire, while not seriously considering full legalization this year, appears poised to finally become the last state in New England to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. The Senate amended and approved a House-passed decrim bill last week, and Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has already pledged to sign it once the originating chamber takes the final procedural step of signing off on the Senate’s changes.
Full marijuana legalization bills are also still pending before legislators in Illinois and Rhode Island, among other states.