Vermont Senate votes to end marijuana prohibition!
Last update: April 18, 2016
On February 25, 2016, following weeks of testimony and careful deliberation, the Vermont Senate made history when it voted 17-12 to pass S. 241 and send it to the House of Representatives. This bill would end Vermont’s prohibition of marijuana for adults 21 and older, creating a regulated and taxed system for marijuana production and sale.
The bill has been amended significantly in two House committees. Since there were not quite six votes on the 11-member Judiciary Committee in support of marijuana regulation, our allies on the committee did the best they could, passing an amended version of S. 241 in a 6-5 vote that would lay some groundwork for future legalization and call for further study. The following week, the Ways and Means Committee restored core provisions that would legalize personal possession. Currently, the House version would allow cultivation of two marijuana plants with purchase of a $125 annual permit from the Department of Health. No policy decision at this point should be considered final, because if the House passes any version of S. 241, it will end up in a conference committee, where three senators and three representatives will attempt to work out a compromise.
If you live in Vermont, please ask your representatives to vote in favor of sensible marijuana regulation. Please also click here to get involved with the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana’s historic effort to organize statewide support for ending prohibition.
RAND report, polling, TV ads demonstrate: “Vermont is ready”
In late January, MPP began airing a TV ad featuring former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney. MPP aired a second TV ad in April, featuring several Vermonters telling the legislature that “Vermont is ready.”
On January 16, 2015, researchers from the Rand Corporation presented legislators with an in-depth report on marijuana legalization and regulation options in Vermont. The report, which was authorized by the legislature in 2014, revealed that approximately 80,000 Vermonters are regular marijuana users, and that they spend about $175 million each year buying cannabis from the illicit market. The researchers estimated that Vermont could reap between $20 million and $75 million per year in taxes if it decides to regulate.
The case for regulating and taxing marijuana in Vermont was bolstered in February 2016, when a poll conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute found 55% support for the idea. Only 32% of Vermonters said they were opposed.
Legislature passes bill to expand access for patients!
In 2014, MPP worked with the legislature to expand Vermont’s law so more patients can benefit from safe, legal access. S. 247, sponsored by Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), passed the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Shumlin May 27. This change in law eliminated the cap of 1,000 patients who were allowed to access dispensaries. It also allowed naturopaths to certify patients, allowed dispensaries to deliver marijuana to patients, and called for a study of the potential impacts of legalization and regulation. To view the rules for the Vermont Marijuana Program (VMP), please visit the Vermont Criminal Information Center website.
Vermont decriminalizes marijuana possession
On June 6, 2013, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed H. 200, which eliminated the state’s criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and replaced them with civil fines. This was a major victory for MPP and its legislative allies in Montpelier, who worked hard to build support for this sensible reform. Leading law enforcement officials, including Attorney General William Sorrell and Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, supported the bill, which went into effect July 1, 2013.
As a result of this reform, Vermont police and prosecutors now waste less time and taxpayer money on enforcing laws against marijuana possession. Individuals caught possessing an ounce or less of marijuana in the Green Mountain State are now fined but do not receive a criminal conviction. Those under 21 are now generally sent to diversion.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Vermont, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.