Photo via Erika Mitchell
This week, the Vermont Senate passed a bill to legalize the possession of marijuana for recreational use, bringing legalization one step closer to reality. The state House passed the bill last week, and the only remaining hurdle is Gov. Phil Scott, who has already said he would sign the bill into law. “Today the Vermont Senate moved Vermont one step closer to a rational approach to marijuana,” Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said in a statement, as reported by the Associated Press. “Tens of thousands of Vermonters will no longer feel like they’re committing a crime for their private, responsible use of marijuana.”
This is the second year in a row that the Vermont legislature has passed a legalization bill. Last year, Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the bill on grounds that it did not include provisions for preventing youth use of the drug or driving under the influence. At the beginning of this year's legislative session, lawmakers successfully amended the bill to address these concerns, and Gov. Scott has pledged that he would sign it. If he does indeed sign it, Vermont will become the first U.S. state to pass a legalization law via their legislature, rather than a ballot measure.
The bill would allow adults aged 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow two mature or four immature cannabis plants at home starting this July. The bill does not, however, set up a system for taxed and regulated retail sales, as most other rec-legal states have done. State Sen. Ashe said that many Senators still support a taxed sales program, but that “despite our best efforts to convince the House and the governor, that just wasn’t going to happen,” Seven Days reports. Ashe also said that he didn't expect a bill to legalize and regulate retail sales would pass this year.
The noncommercial approach of the Vermont legalization bill is similar to a bill that was just passed by the New Hampshire House of Representatives. That bill would also legalize possession or home-grows of small amounts of marijuana, but would not allow retail sales. Unfortunately the legislation is unlikely to succeed this year, as New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and many members of the state Senate are in firm opposition. Further east in New England, Maine legislators are still struggling to draft regulations for legal cannabis retail sales; 14 months after voters approved a ballot measure to legalize weed.