Select Page

After a series of fits and starts, the effort to legalize marijuana in Vermont this year just found new life.

Political journalists in Montpelier are reporting that the state Senate will vote on a legalization amendment as soon as Friday.

Last year, with support from then-Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), the Senate approved a full-scale legalization bill that included a taxed and regulated system of sales, but it later failed by a large margin in the House.

Advocates decided to pursue a pared-down noncommercial approach this year. A House bill to remove penalties for low-level possession and homegrow was expected to pass that chamber but was abruptly taken off the floor last month amid concerns that the absence of several supportive members could have jeopardized a close vote.

The legislation, H. 170, was sent back to the committee level, where it has received a couple of hearings but no additional votes.

But now, senators who support legalization and are frustrated with House inaction are taking matters into their own hands.

Sen. Jeanette White (D) intends to force a vote on adding language similar to the legalization legislation her chamber approved last year as an amendment to an unrelated House-passed bill concerning low-level drug possession penalties. In addition to the tax-and-regulate system that the measure would create for marijuana sales, the move is said to add in the homegrow provisions from the current pending House cannabis bill. Last year’s Senate legislation had no homegrow provision.

White’s amendment is reportedly in partnership with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears (D).

It is unclear at this point how the House would react to the broader full-scale commercial marijuana legalization language being attached to its drug penalties bill. Last year the chamber overwhelmingly defeated the Senate-passed cannabis legislation.

New Gov. Phil Scott (R), who was inaugurated in January, says he’s not necessarily opposed to cannabis law reform but would prefer that Vermont wait to get more experience from other states that have already ended prohibition. He also says he is not willing to sign any legalization bill until the state has in place better systems to detect and prevent impaired driving, though it is unclear if he would go so far as to veto marijuana legislation if sent to his desk by lawmakers.

Vermont has already legalized medical cannabis and decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.

A poll released last month found that 57 percent of the state’s voters support noncommercial legalization and that 54 percent favor a full taxed and regulated system of legal sales.

Vermont’s legislature operates on a biennium basis, so any progress made this year could be built upon in 2018.

Dave Silberman, a Vermont-based attorney and pro bono drug policy reform advocate, told MassRoots in an interview that the House “ought to stop hiding behind parliamentary maneuvers, and hold a vote on this policy that not only has the support of a clear majority of Vermonters, but also happens to be the right thing to do for public health and safety.”

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']