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Vermont Is One Step Away from Legalizing Recreational Cannabis

After Republican Governor Scott vetoed legislation to legalize weed last year, Vermont lawmakers will return a revised bill to his desk next week, but with no path for recreational sales.

by Zach Harris

Photo via aviva gabriel

As America’s recreational cannabis industry continues to reconcile and react to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to revoke the Cole Memo and end federal protections for state-sanctioned legal weed, lawmakers in Vermont are carrying on with their cannabis reform efforts, moving one step closer to legalizing the controversial plant in the Green Mountain State on Thursday, but with one very important caveat.

According to the Burlington Free Press, the Vermont House of Representatives voted by a margin of 81-63 in favor of Bill H.511, sending the measure to legalize recreational cannabis legislation back to the state’s Senate for a quickly expected endorsement, at which point it would move to the desk of Gov. Scott for final approval — a series of events that lawmakers and political pundits alike predict will happen without delay.

"This is a thoughtful, incremental approach to marijuana legalization," said Vermont House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski in a statement after the bill passed Thursday evening. "We're proud to be the first state in the nation to pass marijuana legalization without the pressure of a public referendum."

While Krowinski’s latter observation is certainly true and historic, the current iteration of Vermont’s legalization bill would not allow retail cannabis sales, leaving residents to grow their own weed or rely on the kindness of neighbors and friends, while tourists would be entirely out of luck.

The legalization push comes mere months after Vermont’s disappointing cannabis reform efforts in 2017, when legislators from both the state Senate and House agreed on a comprehensive legalization plan before Gov. Scott vetoed the bill and sent lawmakers back to the drawing board.

To more swiftly achieve their legalization goals, lawmakers left out a system for retail sales and taxation as a direct concession to Gov. Scott, who has said in the past that he would approve a revised bill that addresses impaired driving and child safety.

Even without public availability for the sticky stuff, Vermont’s state house still has legalization detractors speaking up against the now-approved legislation.

"We should have waited for more and better information, both from a report due in 11 days as well as Colorado," Republican Representative Kurt Wright told reporters after the vote. "This is a mistake that we will not be able to go back from once done."

In other parts of the legal weed world, where AG Sessions’ anti-cannabis announcement garnered most headlines, Oregon Congressman and cannabis champion Earl Blumenauer took to social media to voice his support for Vermont legislators’ attempt to end prohibition, especially in the face of the federal government’s latest challenge.

Vermont’s Senate Judiciary Committee said yesterday that they will review the bill’s amendments next week before sending the legalization legislation to the Senate floor for a final vote.


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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