Vermont House Advances Bill to Regulate and Tax Cannabis Sales

S. 54 now returns to the Senate, which is expected to request a conference committee to work out differences with the House before sending the bill to Gov. Phil Scott.

Montpelier, VT — PRESS RELEASE — On Thursday, the Vermont House of Representatives completed its work on a bill that would legalize, regulate and tax cannabis sales for adults 21 and older. S. 54, which initially passed the House in a 90-54 vote yesterday, was approved in a voice vote on third reading. The bill now returns to the Senate, which has already passed it in a 23-5 vote. The Senate is expected to request a conference committee to work out differences with the House before sending a final version of the bill to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk.

This is the first time the Vermont House has passed a bill to legalize cannabis sales. A summary of the bill is available here.

Vermont legalized possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and over in 2018, marking the first time any state legislature legalized cannabis for adults’ use through the legislative process rather than through a voter initiative. However, Vermont remains one of only two U.S. jurisdictions where cannabis is legal but not regulated for adult use. If enacted, Vermont would join the 10 states that have laws regulating and taxing cannabis for adult use.

An overwhelming 76% of Vermont residents support allowing adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses according to a recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project. The complete results are available here.

The Marijuana Policy Project has been advocating for cannabis policy reforms in Vermont for more than 15 years. The state legislature passed a limited medical cannabis law in 2004, decriminalized possession in 2013, and has gradually improved its cannabis policies in the years since.

Matt Simon, New England political director at the Marijuana Policy Project, said, “Vermonters have made it clear that they support the effort to regulate cannabis markets in their state, and the House has listened. The conference committee process will provide a great opportunity for Gov. Scott and legislative leaders to come together on a plan that will move the state forward. Policymakers should all understand that cannabis is already legal in Vermont, so it makes no sense that people should be expected to grow their own or buy from retail stores in Massachusetts. Vermont needs this bill in order to protect consumers, create jobs and provide economic opportunities for small businesses.”

Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, said, “We're encouraged that Vermont's legislature has heeded the will of three-quarters of voters and recognized that regulation, not prohibition, is the most sensible approach to cannabis. Keeping the cannabis market illicit is a half-measure that leaves workers, consumers and communities at risk. Those who sell cannabis illegally are at risk of violence, arrest and prosecution, and buyers are at risk of violence and untested, unsafe products. Only through a legal, regulated market can the state control where, when and to whom cannabis is sold."