Vermont Business Magazine As expected, the House Thursday evening passed legislation that legalizes the possession of marijuana on a vote of 81-63. Democrats had worked out a deal with Governor Phil Scott during the fall to find common language for a bill that would make small amounts of pot possession (under an ounce) and production (two plants) legal, while finding suitable deterrents to driving under the influence and keeping it away from kids. The Senate previously had passed the measure, but must review the rewritten language, likely next week.
“This is a thoughtful, incremental approach to marijuana legalization, and we’re proud to be the first state in the nation to pass marijuana legalization without the pressure of a public referendum” said House Majority Leader, Representative Jill Krowinski. “The Republicans tried time and again to block this legislation, but we know that Vermont is ready to move forward. It’s time to pass this bill and we look forward to the governor sticking to his word and signing this in to law.”
“This bill is an important criminal justice milestone,” said House Judiciary committee chair, Representative Maxine Grad. “It removes the collateral consequences of a criminal record for adults who responsibly use of small amounts of marijuana while simultaneously preventing youth access and enhancing highway safety. H.511 promotes the much needed community policing by beginning to address current racial disparities in drug enforcement and incarceration, and building much needed trust between law enforcement and our communities.
Representative Chip Conquest, Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee, presented the bill on the floor for the committee. “Legalization is the right step for Vermont to take right now,” he said. “This moves us from decriminalization of a small amount of marijuana to legalization of the same amount, and allows those who are inclined to grow their own supply. It’s a small incremental step, and the right step for Vermont to take right now.”
Beyond Vermont, any state legalization, whether in Vermont or California or any other state with, or contemplating legalization, may have to deal with the US attorney general, who appears to want to put the brakes on states seeking to legalize pot.
Sebator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement Thursday in response to reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will rescind an Obama administration policy that shielded legalized marijuana from federal intervention:
"No, Attorney General Sessions. Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that marijuana should be classified as a Schedule 1 drug beside killer drugs like heroin. Quite the contrary. We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made in recent years."
Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) issued the following statement in response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision:
“Attorney General Sessions has cast aside a longstanding Republican principle of deference to the states in order to impose his misguided moral judgement on the medical and recreational use of marijuana. States that have legalized marijuana have done so after fully engaging their citizens on the decision and tailoring their laws to meet their unique circumstances. The federal government should defer to the states on this issue and use its limited law enforcement resources elsewhere.”
Source: Office of the Speaker 1.4.2018. Welch and Sanders.