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Vermont Edges Closer to Legislative Cannabis Legalization

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Since 2012, eight states have legalized marijuana. In each case, voters made the decision, not the legislature—such as last November when ballot initiatives passed in four more states.

Last year, Vermont came close to bucking this trend with legislation modeled on Colorado’s Amendment 64. While then-Gov. Pete Shumlin endorsed the bill and the state Senate voted for it, the House overwhelmingly rejected it in a 121-28 vote.

In the current legislative session. H.170 would legalize possession of up one ounce of cannabis and permit adults over 21 to grow four plants at home, but doesn’t allow for a commercial market—similar to Washington D.C.’s cannabis law. It first passed the Senate and, on May 10, Vermont’s House voted in favor, 77-66. It now awaits Gov. Phil Scott’s signature.


However, unlike his predecessor, Gov. Scott, who is a Republican, has said that he will not support any legalization measure that does not include some way for law enforcement to test for cannabis impairment. A reliable test for marijuana impairment simply does not exist.

Despite such opposition, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project Matt Simon remains confident. “Most Vermonters agree it makes no sense to continue punishing adults for consuming a less harmful substance than alcohol—especially now that it’s legal for adults in Massachusetts and Maine,” he points out. “Vermonters are ready to close the book on marijuana prohibition.”

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