The Judiciary Committee of the Vermont Senate voted 4-1 in favor of a bill last Friday that would allow the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, bringing Vermont one step closer to becoming the first state to legalize marijuana via the legislature.

The bill now moves to the full Senate and, if passed, will continue onto the House and eventually to Gov. Peter Shumlin — who has said that he supports the measure and hopes that Vermont will approve legalization through the legislative process, rather than wait for a voter referendum.

The bill in its current form would allow Vermonters to purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries, but does not legalize homegrown cannabis.

“To proponents, it doesn’t go far enough, but there are provisions in the bill that will keep the conversation moving forward to discuss their concerns,” said Republican Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “To opponents, the bill goes too far, but if you read the language of this 50-plus page bill you will see that virtually all concerns have been taken into account in a way that enables us to get hold of larger concerns.”

Gov. Shumlin said in a press release on Friday:

“This debate is about whether we can take a smarter approach towards marijuana, which is already widely available and used by tens of thousands of Vermonters. Promoting prevention, keeping marijuana out of the hands of kids, getting rid of illegal drug dealers, and doing a better job responding to impaired drivers already on our roads, I believe this legislation is a huge improvement on the failed war on drugs. I look forward to working with the Legislature as they continue to debate this issue.”

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