Vermont senate passes bill to legalize marijuana use

Nellie Chapman
January 11, 2018

The Vermont Senate voted to approve legislation Wednesday that would legalize the possession and cultivation of a limited amount of recreational marijuana, once signed by Governor Phil Scott. The bill, H511, received final approval on Wednesday from the Vermont Senate and will now make its way to the desk of Governor Phil Scott, who vetoed a similar bill in 2017.

A significant moment for the Green Mountain State as well as American history, Vermont has become the first state to legalize marijuana through the state's legislative process. 511 retains civil and criminal penalties for people who exceed the limits on possession and cultivation or who provide marijuana to anyone younger than 21. The Vermont House passed the bill last Thursday. Scott indicated that he intends to sign H. Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Legislature there have said a bill could be passed by early spring. GOP legislators would prefer to see more evidence on how legalizing marijuana has played out in other states, before Vermont takes the leap.

"Vermont in particular doesn't care very much what the attorney general thinks", said Matt Simon, New England political director for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. Nationwide support is similarly strong. "MPP is proud to have helped lead the Vermont effort, just as we led the legalization ballot initiative campaigns in ME and MA in 2016".

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In Vermont, the issue of legal marijuana has been debated for several years, with most polls showing widespread support from voters.

To date, eight states - including California, Colorado and Nevada - have legalized recreational marijuana, but have done so through voter-approved ballot measures. In Washington, D.C., voters approved a ballot initiative making personal possession and home cultivation legal for adults 21 and older. "It's time for the federal government to respect the authority of states to determine their own marijuana policies", he added. Vermont and 22 other states do not have a ballot initiative process.

By voice vote, the Senate agreed to the proposal that would make it legal for adults to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana but does not set up a system to tax and regulate the production and sale of the drug.

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