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Vermont Committee Unanimously Approves Bill To Legalize Marijuana Sales

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A Vermont House committee unanimously voted in favor of a bill on Friday that would legalize commercial marijuana sales in the state.

While Vermont legalized low-level cannabis possession and home cultivation through the legislature in 2018, the current policy does not provide for retail sales. That would change under the proposal approved in a vote of 11-0 by the House Committee on Government Operations.

Next steps for the legislation include consideration by the Ways & Means Committee, which has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday. Michele Childs, a House legislative counsel, told Marijuana Moment in an email that the panel will have a “discussion of taxes and fees.” If approved there, the bill is then expected to be taken up by the Appropriations Committee before heading to the House floor.

The Senate already approved a version of the legislation last year.

“Today’s unanimous committee vote reflects the growing consensus in support of S. 54,” Matt Simon, New England political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “Vermonters are more than ready to see the advent of regulated cannabis sales in their state, and this is an encouraging sign that Vermont’s elected officials are ready to move forward on the issue.”

The legislation as approved by the panel would establish a government body to regulate the marijuana program and approve licenses for a verity of businesses. It would also impose a 16 percent tax on cannabis sales, with up to 30 percent of resulting revenue going toward substance misuse treatment programs.

The potency of cannabis flower would be capped at 30 percent THC, and concentrates could contain up to 60 percent THC.

Lawmakers on the committee floated discussion drafts of an amended bill over the past several days before unanimously approving the 12th such version. Changes made by the panel include adjusting the timeline for implementation, increased deference to the state’s Department of Health for rulemaking, banning flavored vape cartridges and clarifying zoning rules. The legislation is subject to additional amendments as it moves through the other panels.

As previously drafted, the legislation cleared the full Senate last year, and it advanced at the committee level in the House as well. However, it gradually slowed to a halt in that chamber, raising doubts about whether lawmakers would revive it in 2020. But in recent weeks, leaders in the House and Senate expressed optimism that the bill will arrive at the governor’s desk, and now it’s moving steadily through the process.

If the House approves the bill, it will likely enter into a conference committee with the Senate in order to reconcile differences between the two chambers’ versions.

Gov. Phil Scott (R), who has previously expressed opposition to commercial cannabis sales, citing concerns about impaired driving, has reportedly become more open-minded about the prospect. An administration official said this month that he’s considering using some tax revenue from marijuana sales to fund an after-school program he’s advocating for.

Key Virginia Senate Committee Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill, While Broader Legalization Study Advances

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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