By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
Members of the Vermont House spent over six hours today debating various amendments to reform marijuana policy, but ultimately decided against enacting any significant changes in law.
House lawmakers voted 121 to 28 to reject Senate-approved language that sought to regulate the adult use, commercial production, and retail sale of marijuana. Although Gov. Peter Shumlin and Attorney General William Sorrell publicly supported the effort, House members expressed little interest in seriously considering the measure.
House members also rejected an alternative measure that sought to expand the state's existing decriminalization law to also include the personal cultivation of marijuana. Representatives voted 77 to 70 to reject the ammendment.
Representatives also debated whether or not to put forward the question, "Should Vermont legalize marijuana for recreational purposes?" before voters as a non-binding initiative during the upcoming August primary election. Lawmakers decided against the proposal by a vote of 97 to 51.
House lawmakers narrowly voted 77 to 68 in favor of provisions establishing an advisory commission to make recommendations to the legislature with regard to future marijuana policy. Specifically, the commission would be tasked with "propos[ing] a comprehensive regulatory and revenue structure that establishes controlled access to marijuana in a manner that, when compared to the current illegal marijuana market, increases public safety and reduces harm to public health." Those recommendations would be due by December 15, 2016.
House and Senate lawmakers previously approved a study commission in 2014. That commission's report summarized various alternative regulatory schemes but made no recommendations with regard to if and how lawmakers should ultimately amend state law.
The amended measure now awaits a concurrence vote by the Senate.
In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Gov. Shumlin said, "It is incredibly disappointing ... that a majority of the House has shown a remarkable disregard for the sentiment of most Vermonters who understand that we must pursue a smarter policy when it comes to marijuana in this state."