The Vermont Senate gave final approval to a bill Thursday (17-12) that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adult use. S. 241 received initial Senate approval on Wednesday. It will now advance to the House of Representatives, which will begin working on it after members return from Town Meeting Week.
"We applaud the Senate for advancing this important legislation," said Matt Simon, the Montpelier-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Like most Vermonters, most members of the Senate recognize that prohibition is a failed policy. They voted to regulate marijuana because it will make our communities safer.
"We are confident that House members who take an objective look at the evidence will arrive at the same conclusion as their colleagues in the Senate," Simon said. "Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society. We should be regulating it and controlling it, not forcing it into the underground market."
- 241 would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores. It would also create a study commission to examine issues such as edible marijuana products and home cultivation, which would not be allowed under the bill. It would remain illegal to consume marijuana in public or drive under the influence of marijuana. If approved, rulemaking would begin this summer, but the new law would not take effect until January 2018.
A group of more than a dozen local clergy and faith leaders from across Vermont sent a letter to members of the Senate on Tuesday encouraging them to support S. 241. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell and two former attorneys general, Jerome Diamond and Kimberly Cheney, sent a similar letter to legislators last week.
On Monday, Vermont Public Radio released the results of a poll conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute that found 55% of Vermonters support passing a law to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. Only 32% said they are opposed.
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The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana is a broad coalition of citizens, organizations, and businesses working to end marijuana prohibition in Vermont and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed. For more information, visit http://www.RegulateVermont.org.