On Wednesday, Vermont’s Democratic controlled Senate verbally passed a vote to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The House of Representatives, which is also controlled by the Democratic Party in Vermont, already voted to pass the bill last week. Now, Republican Governor Phil Scott has stated that he will sign the bill. This would make Vermont the first state in the U.S to legalize marijuana by legislature rather than a public vote. While Vermont is a predominantly liberal state, it doesn’t allow ballot measures, so legislature is responsible for taking action on behalf of residents. Vermont would join other nearby states Massachusetts and Maine in ending prohibition.
Legal to Grow and Possess Only
As of July 1, 2018, residents of Vermont who are over 21 will be legally allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana as well as grow and keep 2 mature plants and 4 immature plants at any given time. At this stage, there is no plan in place to tax and make marijuana legally available for sale. Last year, Scott put together a committee that is charged with conducting an analysis on how the state should go about setting up a functional infrastructure for that. The committee is due to deliver a report in December and at this point the state can decide how to proceed.
“Today the Vermont Senate moved Vermont one step closer to a rational approach to marijuana,” Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive, said in a statement. “Tens of thousands of Vermonters will no longer feel like they’re committing a crime for their private, responsible use of marijuana.”
Avoiding Federal Interference
Unfortunately, there are still difficulties with the federal government. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is a long time prohibitionist, has reversed more Obama-era laws that will take away the protection of individual state’s rights to create their own marijuana policy. According to Reuter’s Matt Simon, who is the New England political director for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, said “Vermont in particular doesn’t care very much what the attorney general thinks. With the way this bill is written, having a few plants, there’s nothing that the feds could do even if they wanted to.”
Vermont’s Previous Attempt at Marijuana Legislation
Vermont has been working for some time now to legalize the plant for adult use in the state. This is the second time Vermont has tried to pass a measure that would legalize marijuana. Last year, both the House and Senate voted to pass a marijuana bill but it was ultimately vetoed by Scott. He was concerned that it didn’t address child or road safety enough. Lawmakers struggled to amend the bill in time, addressing the Governor’s concerns but it was too late. It appears that all was not lost, however, as the state takes this next step forward.
Vermont now joins the District of Columbia, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Massachusetts and Maine, in having ended prohibition. Many other states across the country, including New Hampshire, are looking to follow in these footsteps and legalize the plant as well.