Vermont Senate passes comprehensive legalization amendment!
Last update: April 21, 2017
Last year, the Vermont Senate passed a comprehensive marijuana legalization and regulation bill, but unfortunately, the bill did not pass through the House.
This year, the House Judiciary Committee’s leadership is sponsoring H. 170, which would simply eliminate penalties for adults’ possession and cultivation of a limited amount of cannabis. This bill passed the House Judiciary Committee in an 8-3 vote and was referred to the Human Services Committee on March 29, 2017.
Since the House has not yet acted on H. 170, the Senate decided to press the issue. On April 21, the Senate voted 21-9 to amend a House-passed bill (H. 167) to include language of a comprehensive legalization and regulation bill.
Vermont’s new governor, Phil Scott (R), has said that he is not yet ready to support marijuana legalization. But with 57% popular support for legalization, and Maine and Massachusetts leading the way, we are hoping he will quickly evolve on the issue.
In 2015, the Rand Corporation presented a legislatively commissioned in-depth report on marijuana legalization and regulation options in Vermont. The report noted that about 80,000 Vermonters regularly consume marijuana, and they spend about $175 million each year buying cannabis.
Senate passes bills to expand access for patients!
On February 17, 2017, the Vermont Senate passed S. 16, which would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Parkinson’s disease, and Crohn’s disease to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. The bill would also authorize four additional dispensaries. Next, S. 16 will be considered by the House.
In 2016, the Vermont Legislature and then-Gov. Peter Shumlin agreed to improve the medical marijuana law by passing S. 14, an MPP-supported bill that enables patients with glaucoma or chronic pain to qualify for the program. (Previously, the standard was “severe pain” — a much higher standard than “chronic pain.”) The new law also reduced the required minimum provider-patient relationship period from six months to three months and included other small, yet positive, changes.
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, then-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 then-Attorney General William Sorrell and then-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.