Vermont senate passes marijuana legalization bill

Vermont senate passes marijuana legalization bill

Vermont is poised to become the ninth state to make marijuana legal for adults and the first to do so through its legislature.

Once H.511 issigned by Gov. Scott, Vermont's residents will be allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of recreational marijuana and will be permitted to cultivate up to six marijuana plants.

511, it is unlikely to be the last time the Senate votes on a cannabis bill, as many in the chamber still hope to pass a tax-and-regulate structure for recreational marijuana sales. But it will make Vermont the first state to legalize marijuana via the legislature, rather than through a ballot initiative, provided Republican Gov. Phil Scott signs the bill.

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"This is a big step forward for Vermont", said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. The growth, according to the bill, would have to be in a limited quantity.

First, legalization will have been achieved via legislative action (versus initiative), and secondly, the legalization model will not include an industry component. In Washington, D.C., voters approved a ballot initiative making personal possession and home cultivation legal for adults 21 and older. The Senate quickly approved the changes, but House Republicans blocked a needed vote on them during a short budget session last summer. To date, all eight states that have enacted legalization of the adult use of marijuana, as well as the District of Columbia have done so by a direct vote of the people. The Attorney General rescinded the Obama-era directive known as the Cole Memo, which instructed the Justice Department to place a low priority on enforcing federal marijuana laws against businesses and organizations that comply with state laws. Now that yet another state has rejected marijuana prohibition, there is even more pressure for Congress to take action to prevent any federal interference from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Vermont's Senate had previously passed a version of the bill last summer, but today's vote was required to approve the House of Representatives' decision to remove a study commission from the bill.

The Marijuana Policy Project is the nation's largest marijuana policy organization.

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