The Vermont House of Representatives has finally approved a bill to legalize taxed and regulated cannabis sales. The Green Mountain State already legalized cannabis possession, home-grows, and use in 2018, but weed sales remain illegal. Like Washington DC, the only other US territory to legalize weed use but prohibit sales, this has led to a “gray market” of quasi-legal pot dealers.
The new bill would put an end to this confusing situation by officially allowing licensed cannabis businesses to grow, process, and sell weed to adults. The bill would create a new Cannabis Control Commission, which would regulate adult-use weed sales and take over regulation of the state's existing medical marijuana industry. Adult-use sales would be taxed at 14 percent, plus the standard 6 percent state sales tax.
“Why do we tax and regulate and control particular substances? We have several reasons,” said state Rep. Tommy Walz (D) during the legislative debate, Marijuana Moment reports. “One, of course, is that we can get revenue out of it. But also because we can provide some harm reduction. It can provide some protections.”
The bill also contains social equity provisions that would prioritize business licenses for minorities, women, and people from communities ravaged by the war on drugs. An independent regulatory commission focused on helping small businesses compete with larger corporate cannabis firms would also be established. And like many other adult-use states, the bill will allow individual municipalities to choose whether or not pot shops will be allowed in their communities.
The state House and Senate each passed slightly different versions of the bills, so a bicameral committee was convened to sort out the differences between the two versions. During this debate, state senators acquiesced to a number of restrictions proposed by the House. The final version of the bill now imposes a 30 percent THC limit on cannabis flower, and a 60 percent limit on concentrates. The bill will also allow police to conduct roadside saliva testing for THC, as long as they obtain a warrant.
The state House approved this compromise bill with a 92-56 vote. The state Senate must still approve this version of the bill, which they are likely to do. But to finally become law, the bill must still be signed by Governor Phil Scott. The governor has reportedly discussed the bill with lawmakers, but has yet to indicate whether or not he will approve it. In 2017, Scott famously vetoed lawmakers' first attempt to legalize weed, and there are concerns that he may veto this bill as well.
“It’s exciting to see that Vermont is on the cusp of ending cannabis prohibition for adults,” said Matt Simon, New England political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement. “Most Vermonters are not interested in growing their own plants, and many are unable to do so because it is prohibited by their rental agreements, so the only sensible policy is to create a regulated market for adult-use cannabis in Vermont. Governor Scott should recognize the merits of this bill and sign it into law after it passes the Senate.”
The Vermont House just passed another bill to automatically expunge all criminal records for former cannabis offenses, but this bill must still be approved by the Senate. Lawmakers have also proposed a bill that would decriminalize the use of natural psychedelics throughout the state, but this bill has yet to advance.