Last year Vermont became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the legislature, not ballot initiative. However, the state did not put a system in place to allow recreational cannabis sales. That may soon change.
Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said he's planning to fast-track a bill to allow recreational marijuana sales in the state. Ashe says that while Vermont legalized marijuana last year, they're missing out on the possible benefits of a legal marijuana market, primarily the tax revenue that comes with it. And while most bills need to go through committees before receiving a vote, Ashe is going to fast-track the process to avoid committees and prevent the bill from getting bogged down in the Senate.
However, it's not clear that even if the Vermont Senate approves the bill that it will become law. The Vermont House has historically resisted many tax-and-regulate legislation, and some leaders in the house are saying they're not sure the state's ready for recreational sales.
“And I want to know what effect that’s having on usage, on highway safety, on just awareness of the dangers,” said Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson. “And I don’t think a tax-and-regulate system is something to rush into.”
It also doesn't help that Vermont Governor Phil Scott also says he opposes allowing a recreational marijuana market unless the state finds a reliable roadside test to determine driver marijuana impairment. Of course, this technology does not currently exist (and possibly will not for a long time).
But that's not stopping Ashe from putting the pressure on. He notes that Massachusetts, Vermont's neighbor, recently began allow recreational marijuana sales, and many people are simply driving a few hours south to purchase legal cannabis. Every dollar spent on cannabis by Vermont residents in Massachusetts is a dollar that Vermont loses.