January 29, 2016

VT Senate Judiciary Committee Meets to Discuss Act Relating to Possession and Cultivation of Cannabis

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VT Senate Judiciary Committee Meets to Discuss Act Relating to Possession and Cultivation of Cannabis

Montpelier (Jan 27): “If we were our own country, we wouldn’t have this problem,” Sen. Sears (D-Bennington) jests during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s mark-up of S.241 – an act relating to the possession and cultivation of cannabis, and the regulation of commercial cannabis establishments.

There are still several days of mark-up and review for this bill, but important details were clarified this morning in the state capitol. Under this bill, landlords, employers, and rented rooms (hotels), would still be able to prohibit cannabis use. The guidelines for smoking in public places would mimic the laws set in place for tobacco use. “Let’s rent a hotel room, smoke in it and see what happens, “Sen. Sears jokes after Sen. White (D- Windham) remarks that cannabis smoke causes less damage to interior walls than tobacco smoke.

A clause in the bill relating to persons under 21 being prohibited from being on the property of marijuana retailers caused some confusion when Sen. Benning (R-Caledonia) brought up that retailers and dispensaries may be on the same lot. If a 20 year old man, who has a medical marijuana license, cannot be on the same property as a retail establishment – how can he access his medical marijuana from the dispensary? The answer was subtle: on versus in. The language of the clause was changed to prohibit persons under 21 from being in a retail establishment instead of on the property – allowing the medical marijuana patient full access to the dispensary.

One of the committee’s main focuses is in-state commerce – they are very committed to requiring a certain percentage of financier licenses for cultivators and retailers to be Vermonters. The proposed percentage was 51% – with additional Vermont ownership acting as an application booster. “I’m thinking more like 75%,” Sen. White suggested. The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting Thursday this week to continue the mark-ups, which is sure to lead to more change in the bill.

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