Since the beginning of the year one of the biggest topics in marijuana legalization has been whether or not Vermont lawmakers will legalize marijuana for adult use. Talk started in January and by February the Senate had passed a version of the bill that would legalize up to an ounce for adults 21 and over, as well as structuring a controlled and regulated retail market. It all seemed to be running smoothly, and even the Governor openly supports the bill and intends to sign whatever version makes it to his desk.
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives was not quite as on board with the idea as the Senate – at least not in the first couple rounds of voting. When the House Judiciary Committee got a hold of S.241 they stripped it down entirely and amended it to get rid of fees associated with current decriminalization fines for marijuana possession up to an ounce and would allow citizens to grow up to two plants in their household. That version of the bill did not make it through the first time, though another revised version calling for further research did.
When the bill, now looking nothing like it had when it first reached the house, reached The Ways and Means Committee this week, it appears to have been revived to a degree. S.241 once again reads that it would waive fines associated with current charges for possession of up to an ounce by adults 21 and older as well as allowing adults 21 and older to grow up to two plants in their home, with a license from the state of course, which would cost $125 (likely annually).
This is both a step forward and a step backward, in a way. It is definitely a big leap forward from where the House Judiciary Committee left the bill – but it is still far away from where it was when it reached the House initially. On one hand, many citizens have expressed a desire to be able to grow their own cannabis at home, so this bill offers one benefit the original did not. However, for those who do not wish to grow it, but still plan to smoke, the black market will still be the only option if a regulated retail market cannot be agreed upon.
“Many Vermonters have been very vocal in support of allowing limited home cultivation, and it appears their voices did not fall on deaf ears,” Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release.
For now, S.241 still has to make it through the House Appropriations Committee before reaching the floor for a full, final vote in the House. However, seeing as different committees have stripped, rewritten and amended this bill since it was first introduced, there will likely be some confrontation and the vote could be split. If it does pass the full House vote, the Senate and House will have to come together to reach an agreement and return to both floors for a full vote.
So now, all we can do is wait and see – will Vermont still be the first to legalize marijuana through legislature? Or will Rhode Island beat them to it after all these changes? I can only imagine how the citizens of these states feel, like kindergarteners on the edge of their seats waiting for recess to start. We’re all anxious to see which of these states will be the first to legalize through legislative means, changing the game from this point forward for other states seeking similar laws.