April 9, 2016

House Judiciary Passes Marijuana Bill, Removes Legalization

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Montpelier (April 8) – Not having enough support for full legalization, a divided House Judiciary Committee voted 6-5 in favor of their overhaul of a bill passed by the senate to legalize and regulate marijuana in Vermont. This overhaul removes legalization and focuses on creating a bill that would help Vermont prepare for a future with legalized marijuana.

The bill, which would provide framework and money for Vermont to start education and prevention programs throughout the state, as well as important training for law enforcement. The bill would also set up a commission to study the legalization of recreational marijuana. Proposed earlier in the day was a version this bill that included an easing of decriminalization laws and penalties. The committee failed to pass that version in a 6-5 vote, leading to the proposal and passage of the revised bill with no change in decriminalization laws.

The House Judiciary Committee has spent the past three weeks listening to testimony on the topic of Marijuana legalization, and was clearly ready to move on from the issue. The committee is divided, with some members clearly wanting to table the bill and move on from the issue, while some want to something to show for all their hard work. Knowing that support is lacking for full legalization, as many committee members believe Vermont just isn’t ready, the committee aimed to create a bill that increases readiness in Vermont.

The resulting bill is a “balanced approach to an issue that’s here” according to Committee Chair Maxine Grad. With five committee members motioning to table the bill, Grad and others stressed the importance of voting on something to show for all of their hard work.

 In the end, some committee members were left unhappy that the committee took the issue as far as they did, “I’m disappointed that this committee has gotten this far,” voiced Rep. Vicki Strong during an emotional appeal that the committee vote to stop work on the issue.

 The bill will now make it’s way to other House committees. If it ends up passing the House, the bill will need to undergo a set of compromises made between the Senate and the House before it is officially passed.


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