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Legalization in Vermont Stands Poised on the Precipice

Last year, the Vermont Senate passed a bill for comprehensive marijuana legalization, but it never made it through the House. Now the Senate is in a similar spot with another bill – this time with a better hope for passage.

The House Judiciary Committee this year sponsored another bill, H-170, which would eliminate penalties for possession and limit grows.

But that bill has sat in the House Human Services Committee since late March, inspiring the Senate to amend a bill already passed by the House, H-167, to include language of legalization and regulation on April 21.

While the Senate passed that bill, which would make Vermont the nine state to legalize recreational marijuana, the House has yet to vote.

The full House is expected to vote soon, hopefully before the end of their legislative session on May 12. But the amendment is similar to legislation from the Senate last year that eventually failed at the House. So passage is not a sure thing.

The Senate amended bill H-167 allows for any resident 21 or older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana; cultivate up to two mature and four immature plants in a secure location, shielded from public view; purchase up to a half-ounce of marijuana from retailers if they are Vermont residents, or up to a quarter-ounce if they are not Vermont residents.

Among the regulations included in that bill are that the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets would license and regulate retailers, growers, and testing laboratories, advised by a board with representatives from the departments of Public Safety, Health, and Taxes.

The agency would issue 42 retailer licenses, five testing laboratory licenses; an unlimited number of cultivator licenses for under 500 square feet; twenty cultivator licenses for 500-1,000 square feet; fifteen cultivator licenses for 1,000-2,500 square feet; ten cultivator licenses for 2,500-5,000 square feet; and five cultivator licenses for 5,000-10,000 square feet.

Additionally, non-refundable application fees would range from $1,000 to $30,000 for cultivators, depending on their size; $15,000 for retailers; and $500 for labs.

The agency would begin issuing licenses to cultivators and testing laboratories by June 15, 2018, and would issue retail licenses by September 15, 2018. Marijuana possession and cultivation would become legal on January 2, 2019.

The bill further stipulates that only flower could be sold; public consumption would be punishable by a civil fine; landlords could still ban the possession and use of marijuana; and employers could still prohibit marijuana use at work and could still discharge employees for violating a policy prohibiting their marijuana use.

Voters in the state – 57 percent – are in favor of legalization, but Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, is unwilling to jump into the fray and offer his support as yet.

David Hodes

David Hodes

David Hodes is based in the greater Washington DC metropolitan area. He is the former editor of seven different business magazines, and has contributed feature articles to several business/lifestyle publications and national cannabis magazines. Hodes is also a former field producer for CBS News, NBC, NFL Network, ESPN and other media outlets; worked as a news promotions producer for two network affiliates; and was the morning news editor for a third network affiliate.

He is member of the National Press Club, and deputy booking agent for the National Press Club Headliners Committee.

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