Vermont is set to ring in the New Year by legalizing recreational marijuana. There is already a legalization bill in the legislature, and it's expected to pass in the very near future, according to the speaker of Vermont's House of Representatives.
“It will be up for a vote in early January,” Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D) said last week. “I expect that it likely will pass in early January.”
That bill is a revision of the legislation that Governor Phil Scott (R) vetoed last May. But he didn't slam the door on marijuana reform. Instead, he sent the bill back to the legislature, asking them to make a few specific changes such as adding tougher penalties for people who provide marijuana to minors. Earlier this month, Governor Scott said he would be "comfortable" signing the revised bill. And the Senate is also on board, according to Speaker Johnson.
“We do have agreement with the governor and with the Senate on what that bill currently says,” she said last Friday.
If passed, Vermont would become the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the legislature rather than through ballot initiatives, which have been used to repeal prohibition in Colorado, California and six other states plus Washington, DC since 2012. Vermont could soon be followed by New Jersey, where lawmakers want to repeal marijuana prohibition within the first hundred days of the administration of incoming Governor Phil Murphy (D).
But legalization in Vermont would be a lot different from other jurisdictions. Right now, the bill would only allow adults 21 or older to grow and possess marijuana. There is no framework in the legislation to allow sales or to set up a retail system. But that could change very soon. Since vetoing the bill, Governor Scott has assembled a Marijuana Commission to analyze existing markets and make recommendations to Vermont lawmakers on issues like establishing a commercial market for recreational cannabis. So consumers might not need to hold their breath very long before they see pot shops open up in the Green Mountain State.
If the bill is passed early in January, legalization would become law nearly two years to the day when former Governor Peter Shumlin (D) called on legislators to repeal marijuana prohibition. That just goes to show how quickly reform can become reality when politicians are motivated to make change.
h/t Marijuana Moment