The Vermont capitol building surrounded by snow on a sunny, winter day.

David Berkowitz

Vermont Cannabis Reforms Unlikely to Pass this Session

Key lawmakers in Vermont’s Senate have indicated that they will not support a legalization plan being circulated in the House because it “reinforces a black market approach rather than… [a] more streamlined, regulated system,” Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said in a Vermont Public Radio report.

The House plan, which was approved by the chamber’s Judiciary Committee but pulled by House leadership after it was clear it would not pass, would have legalized possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis by adults 21-and-older, and allowed them to grow up to two mature and seven immature plants.

Democratic state Sen. Jeannette White, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations and supporter of legalization, said she “can’t imagine” a scenario in which the Senate would pass the House proposal, adding that the measure “does nothing to decrease the black market.”

“It in fact encourages it, because now you’re going to be able to have a certain amount, or an increased amount, and it will be completely legal,” White said in the report. “There’s no place for you to get it, so it’s going to increase the underground market.”

According to the report, last year the Senate passed a measure that would have legalized a taxed and regulated recreational cannabis system in the state; however that bill failed in the House.

Ashe indicated that the Senate could choose to pass a similar tax-and-regulate bill before this session ends, which could become a priority when lawmakers return for the second half of the biennium in 2018.

“To be honest, I think people are tired of this conversation going on and on and on. And it’s something that we just need to do,” White said. “We’ve been talking about this forever and people out there are tired of us dragging out feet and not getting anything done.”

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