The state of Vermont has been on the edge of legalizing cannabis for over a year now, and each attempt puts them closer to becoming the first state to do so through the legislative process. It was just earlier this year that a bill finally passed votes in both the Senate and the House, only to be vetoed by Governor Scott at the last minute. It wasn’t all for nothing though, as Scott gave an idea of what he wanted to see changed for him to feel comfortable signing the bill.
“After years of starts and stops, Governor Scott and the legislature are finally on the same page with respect to cannabis policy reform, and it now seems clear that Vermont will legalize possession and personal cultivation within weeks,” Dave Silberman, a Middlebury attorney and pro bono drug policy reform advocate, said in an interview.
The bill that is expected to pass early in January has already been approved by the Senate, and is technically only pending one more vote at the House floor before going to Governor Scott once again. It will allow residents to legally possess personal amounts of cannabis and grow a limited number of plants in their homes, but it will not make the commercial sale of the herb legal just yet.
Also, at the request of Governor Scott, the bill calls for the creation of a commission that would consider the issue of determining impaired driving – something he wishes to see figured out prior to allowing commercial sales. However, Scott has already put together such a commission and their recommendations are expected mid-January – so there is a chance that the bill will be revised in the House prior to approval to remove this requirement, and perhaps to include provisions suggested by the commission.
If that happens, then the bill will then go back to a committee for approval from both the House and Senate before it ends up at the Governor’s desk. Though it seems like this could cause a delay past January, things may start happening as soon as January 3rd – and with both the Senate and the House in a hurry to pass this bill, any revisions will likely move along quickly.
“This is a testament to the power of public pressure, after thousands of Vermonters called and wrote the governor in opposition to his veto of a nearly identical legalization bill just last May, and shows that, when it comes to drug policy reform, the more we speak, the more we win.”
After a long time of working out a bill that everyone can be happy with for now, Vermont lawmakers are preparing to make history. If they legalize personal possession and home growing of cannabis in January, then they will officially be the first state to legalize marijuana through legislature – even if it won’t be commercially for sale. This move will give hope to other states where ballot initiatives are not an option, and show other lawmakers that legalization is not something to hold off on for fear of what the federal government might do.