Vermont Statehouse Approves Adult-Use Marijuana, Setting New Precedent in U.S.

Vermont Statehouse Approves Adult-Use Marijuana, Setting New Precedent in U.S.

Gov. Phil Scott has promised to sign the bill into law, though there are no immediate plans for a licensed retail market.

January 10, 2018

UPDATE: Gov. Phil Scott Signs Bill Legalizing Marijuana in Vermont. Read more here.

The Vermont legislature formally approved an adult-use marijuana bill today with a Senate vote. Once Gov. Phil Scott signs the bill into law, as he’s promised to do, Vermont will become the first state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana through state legislation, rather than through a ballot initiative.

H.511 legalizes the possession of up to one ounce for adults 21 and older. Vermont residents may grow their own plants, as well: Two mature plants or four immature plants are allowed at any given time.

Once signed, this bill will take effect on July 1.

As it’s written, however, this bill does not set up a taxable retail market in the state. In recent days and weeks, lawmakers debated the merits of a tax-and-regulate system, and hinted in more than one hearing that they’ll look to develop some sort of regulated system in the future. (Rep. Don Turner proposed a last-minute amendment on the House floor, which would have set up a regulated retail market. He called the move an “attempt to make a bad bill better.” His amendment was struck down, 114-32. Turner ultimately voted against H.511.)

For now, the state awaits Scott’s signature. He’s been heavily involved in the legislative process, especially since he vetoed an earlier legalization bill last year. At that time, Scott cited public safety concerns and stated that he wanted to slow this process down a bit. In September, the governor created the Marijuana Advisory Commission to study how highway safety might be impacted by legal marijuana and how the state might best include education and abuse prevention efforts into the legalization program.

The commission will release a report on those topics next week, most likely on Jan. 16.

That won’t curb any immediate impacts of H.511. Rather, the commission’s work takes a longer view on the matter of marijuana in Vermont.

“[After this next report,] we’re going to pivot and turn to the last major portion of our work, which is going to focus largely on whether and how Vermont would move from the H.511 version of legalization to a licensed-retail-sales version of legalization,” commission co-chair Tom Little tells Cannabis Business Times. “We would look at whether and how and when -- and what the state would want to have in place in terms of highway safety and education and prevention before that would happen.”

The commission will issue quarterly updates on that note, and a final report will be due in December.

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