Vermont senate passes bill to legalize marijuana use

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Vermont's state Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would legalize recreational marijuana use for adults over the age of 21, removing the last major roadblock on the drug's path to legalization in the state. The bill passed both houses of the legislature only to be vetoed by Gov. Scott, who said it needed small changes to win his approval.

This Vermont bill will eliminate the state's civil penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and remove possession penalties of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants. The bill that was approved by the House last week, and Gov. Phil Scott has indicated he would sign it.

For now, anyway. The bill also calls for a task force appointed by the governor to study the issue and recommend "legislation on implementing and operating a comprehensive regulatory and revenue system for an adult marijuana market" by December 31. He supported a similar plan last spring, but it was stymied by Republicans in the House, which, like the Senate, is controlled by Democrats.

Other state legislatures considering legalizing pot this year include Rhode Island and CT.

"Vermont in particular doesn't care very much what the attorney general thinks", said Matt Simon, New England political director for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. Only 39% are opposed. An October 2017 Gallup poll found 64% of Americans support making marijuana legal. Eight states and the District of Columbia have already legalized marijuana, but those were all through the initiative process. "MPP is proud to have helped lead the Vermont effort, just as we led the legalization ballot initiative campaigns in ME and MA in 2016". In Washington, D.C., voters approved a ballot initiative making personal possession and home cultivation legal for adults 21 and older.

Fun fact: When state's seek legalization through the legislative process it provides certain safeguards from federal intervention when commercial cultivation and sales are prohibited. Those states' marijuana laws can only be modified by legislatures.

Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Rhode Island are expected to consider legalizing marijuana possession for adults sometime in 2018.

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