For the second year in a row, Vermont legislators have been working towards passing a bill that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Vermont. Unfortunately it’s looking like this year may not be the year for the state as the measures missed a critical deadline on Friday to have the bill pushed through to the Senate.
The New Bills Versus the Old Bill
The bill was an adjusted, simplified version of the measure put forward last year that was largely based on Colorado marijuana law. Initially, people over the age of 21 could possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana but the bill was adjusted to make the maximum 1 ounce per person. Currently, possession of small amounts of marijuana is decriminalized and leads to a civil fine. The bill to legalize marijuana did not contain specifics regarding taxes and regulations. Another measure that would have created the regulations for taxing a legalized marijuana industry was also unable to move forward.
Still a Chance to Move Forward
One obstacle to the bill is that Gov. Phil Scott wants to make sure that there’s a trustworthy way to evaluate driver impairment in order to ensure public safety before he supports any bill that would legalize recreational marijuana. Another issue is that many in the House were not entirely clear about the details of the bill. In this sense, the bill still has a chance to pick up support. House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski said, “People are still looking for more information.” She said that just because the bill did not meet the deadline that doesn’t mean it is dead.
Democratic Rep. Sam Young is the lead sponsor of the bill that would regulate and tax marijuana. He echoed Krowinski’s sentiments, saying that missing Friday’s deadline does not necessarily mean the bill is dead. It could still be revived if it gathers support. Sen. Dick Sears, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he would back the bill if the House moves it forward. “The majority of my committee, which hasn’t changed since last year, would prefer a regulated system. In the course of a legislative session, there’s always compromise that occurs. We believe that having at least a vote in the House, a positive vote in the House, would be a good step forward,” Sears said.
The State of Legalization in the U.S.
The legalization of recreational marijuana gained a lot of momentum in the last few months, with 4 more states legalizing it last November. California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine all joined Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington in ending prohibition. Now, other states in the area are considering legalizing marijuana through legislature as opposed to waiting to take a public vote. New Jersey and Rhode Island is particular have been in discussions throughout 2017. Should Vermont manage to step the marijuana bills forward, they would be in good company. 20 percent of the country has now legalized recreational marijuana and, according to the most recent Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans are in favor of legalization.
We will have to wait and see if the bill can still be revived and if Vermont can move forward with ending prohibition.