A Vermont House of Representatives committee approved a bill last week that would create a system to tax and regulate commercial cannabis sales in the state. The measure, S. 54, was approved by the House Government Operations Committee on Thursday by a vote of 10-1. The bill was passed by the Vermont Senate in February by a margin of 23-5.
S. 54 has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and is also expected to be considered by the Appropriations Committee before a floor vote, which must come before the end of the legislative session on Friday. Matt Simon, the New England political director for cannabis policy reform group the Marijuana Policy Project, urged members of the House to take swift action on the bill.
“We applaud the committee for advancing S. 54, and we urge the House to complete its work on S. 54 without delay,” Simon said in a press release. “Cannabis has been legal for adults in Vermont for the better part of a year, and it’s time for it to be regulated and taxed in order to protect public health and safety. This legislation reflects years of careful study and deliberation, and it proposes a thoughtful and measured approach to establishing a legal cannabis market. Most Vermonters support regulating the production and sale of cannabis, and they have waited long enough for lawmakers to develop such a system.
Possession and Home Cultivation Already Legal
Vermont legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana and the home cultivation of up to two mature and four immature cannabis plants in July of last year. However, the legislature did not legalize commercial cannabis production or sales, leading to a policy on marijuana that doesn’t make sense, according to Democratic Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas.
“The current situation that we have right now where cannabis is legal for adults to use and to possess, but if you can’t grow it in your own home, maybe because you have small kids in the house or maybe because you live in an apartment, you don’t have any legal way to access it,” she said. “So I think there is more of a push to say, ‘This current landscape is illogical.'”
Simon noted that other jurisdictions that have a regulated cannabis industry have been able to reallocate scarce resources and improve public health and safety while creating new economic opportunities.
“Several states around the country have already implemented similar laws, and they are finding significant public health and safety benefits,” he said. “Cannabis is being subjected to strict testing, packaging, and labeling requirements that ensure products are not contaminated and that consumers know what they are getting. Cannabis cultivation, processing, and sales are taking place in tightly regulated facilities that are creating jobs and generating tax revenue for their communities.”
If S. 54 is passed in the House and amendments made there receive approval from the Senate, the bill will head to Gov. Phil Scott for his consideration. Scott has called for a provision allowing roadside saliva testing for THC, although no such amendment has yet been added to the bill. Scott could decide to veto the measure, although the bill’s support in the Senate was strong enough to override such a move.