At the start of the year we all got excited to see everything that was happening in Vermont when the Senate first passed a bill that would have taxed and regulated marijuana and allowed use and possession by adults 21 and older. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives did not have as much time to review the piece of legislation as they would have liked and the bill ended up dead in the water by the time the session was over. The good news for Vermonters is that those who wrote the original bill have not given up hope – Senator Dick Sears has already brought up the issue once again as they prepare for the new session.
“Does it make sense to keep that system the way it is or should we regulate it, tax it and have it be a product that people over 21 can buy?” Sears said.
With the election approaching there is a chance that Vermont’s neighboring states Maine and Massachusetts might legalize recreational cannabis as both have measures on the ballot. The Senate had originally wanted to try and push through their own laws prior to this, to avoid any issues with nearby states’ legal activities. If either of these states legalize cannabis then it may be the push those in the House need to be ready to pass legislation to do the same.
Some of the main issues that kept the House from allowing a full vote on the bill, other than that they felt rushed to make a decision, include the major differences between state and federal law (will federally subsidized housing have to ban cannabis use, even to legal adults? Is there a way for banks or at the least credit unions to become involved so that the industry doesn’t have to be cash-only?) and the fact that their laws would be vastly different from the ones in neighboring states (it considered leaving edibles off the market until a later date, for example), which could cause problems for people that cross state lines frequently.
“Hopefully we’re better prepared than we were last year to respond to some of the concerns of some of our colleagues and our constituents,” Sears said.
Once again, it would be amazing to see Vermont work their way into the legal cannabis industry. Seeing as they cannot use a citizens’ initiative to enact marijuana laws, it would have to be up to the lawmakers to do the leg work. Luckily, with politicians like Senator Sears, Vermont has a good chance of seeing this become a reality. It could also lead the way for other state governments to decide to do the same – especially if they have as much success as has been seen in Colorado, Washington and Oregon. Hopefully the House of Representatives has had more than enough time to think about it at this point – and just maybe 2017 will be the year we see Vermont become the first state to legalize cannabis through legislature.