January 28, 2016

Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee discusses Draft 1.18 of Marijuana legislation

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Montpellier (Jan 27) Just down stairs from the University of Vermont’s President Tim Sullivan’s testimony, Legislative Counsel, Michele Childs, assisted the Vermont Judiciary Committee in marking up Section 241 of the legislative bill on the legalization of marijuana this morning in Montpellier. The section touches upon many issues, which will keep the Judiciary Committee occupied for sessions to come.

One of the major issues the Judiciary Committee visited during the mark-up of this bill was regarding the finances behind retail shops which would sell marijuana in Vermont, given the bill passes. The committee noted that they want these licensed retailers to be “Vermont based institutions,” with 51% ownership of the institution belonging to a Vermont resident, as James Pepper, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Policy Adviser, clarified. Senator Tim Ashe (D-Chittenden) expressed his concerns regarding the definition of “residencies” and “reside in”. The committee agreed unanimously that the requirement of residency is two years, and shall remain as such.

An issue Senator Alice Nitka (D- Windsor) raised as a possible externality of this clause is the potentially “wiring” of funds to Vermont residents, in effort to raise the money here in VT to become a licensed retailer. The concern behind this is that the money in the business is not “Vermont money”. “If we became our own country, we wouldn’t have this problem,” scoffed Senator Dick Sears (D-Bennington) in response to this muddy issue.

Another idea the Judiciary Committee visited, bouncing off of the finance issue, is which facilities may be eligible to adopt research licenses to test products, coming from both the black market and regulatory products for retail. States like Colorado and Washington allow their universities to possess a license for this research, in addition to designating 5% of the tax revenue from marijuana sales to fund them. Perhaps the legislature will be seeing another visit from UVM’s President, Tim Sullivan in the near future to further discuss this proposition.

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