Vermont Lawmakers Pass Bill Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

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Your dreams of getting a good buzz in the Green Mountain State have moved one step closer to reality, as Vermont is on the verge of becoming the first state to enact legislation legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

Yes, several states have legalized non-medical pot in recent years, but none of them have done so through the legislative process. Instead, the people of those states have approved legalization through public referendums.

Today, the Vermont House of Representatives voted 79-66 to concur with the Senate’s amendment to S. 22, which incorporates an earlier House bill H.170 [PDF].

The amended bill is a compromise between the House and Senate: It would eliminate all penalties for adults’ possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, two or fewer mature plants, and four or fewer immature plants.

Unlike other states that have legalized pot, the Vermont law does not include any immediate timeline for allowing the sale of retail marijuana in the state. Rather, it would establish a 9-member commission tasked with developing separate legislation for regulating and taxing cannabis in Vermont.

“The administration will be at the table, along with the attorney general and others,” Rep. Maxine Grad, one of the bill’s sponsors and chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee told the Burlington Free Press before the vote. “With Massachusetts and Maine starting up in 2018, I think we need to continue this conversation.”

Hold your horses before you go setting up a grow operation, however, as the law would not take effect until July 1, 2018.

Marijuana advocates applauded the vote.

“The Legislature has taken a crucial step toward ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “There is no rational reason to continue punishing adults for consuming a substance that is safer than alcohol.”

The bill now goes to Gov. Phil Scott, who has not yet indicated his intention to sign or veto the legislation. Scott could also do nothing and allow the bill to become law without his signature.