Vermont Senate Passes Marijuana Legalization Measure

Jan 10, 2018

The Vermont Senate approved the legalization of small amounts of marijuana today and sent the measure to the governor for his signature.

The Vermont Senate passed H.511 on a voice vote Wednesday afternoon as announced by Lieutenant Governor Progressive David Zuckerman.  “All those in favor please signify by saying aye.”
Senators:  “Aye.”
Zuckerman:  “Those opposed signify by saying nay.”
Senators:  “No.”
Zuckerman:  “The ayes appear to have it. The ayes do have it and you have concurred with the Senate the House Proposal of Amendment to the Senate Proposal of Amendment on H.511.”

The measure allows the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and removes penalties for growing or possessing up to two mature and up to four immature plants.  The bill was passed by the House last week, just days into the session.
Prior to the vote Democratic Senator Dick Sears, chair of the Judiciary Committee, reviewed changes made by the House.  “The House version takes out the commission and inserts language that recognizes that the governor did create a commission between the time of the veto session and now and that commission will be reporting in the summer of  2018 on establishment of a tax and regulated system. So that's the basic change. They also made one minor change in terms of cultivation on private property.”

With the House and Senate taking action on the marijuana legalization bill so quickly at the start of the session, Sears noted that there have been comments about a rush to pass the measure. But he countered its deliberative history goes back several years.  “The rush started in 2015 and here we are in 2018 voting on a bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee met this morning. We discussed a number of factors, heard from Chief Morrison of the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police and ultimately voted four to one to ask the Senate to concur with the Proposals of Amendment from the House to H.511 and we urge you to passage.”

Marijuana Policy Project New England Political Director Matt Simon notes that Vermont is poised to become the first state to legislatively legalize adult possession of marijuana.  “The Senate has passed versions of  this many times before so on that level its maybe not such a big deal but the fact that it is a bill moving to the desk of Governor Phil Scott that he's indicated that he will sign I think that's that's very significant. States are looking at this issue. They’re  realizing that prohibition has not worked and they’re  looking to move forward with a different approach. And as the polls and public opinion shift dramatically I think we’re going to see more states follow this direction.”

Audio from the Vermont Senate is courtesy of the live Statehouse webstream provided by Vermont Public Radio.