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Vermont House Wants to Decriminalize Growing Cannabis

After a bill to tax and regulate cannabis in Vermont passed the state Senate in March hopes were mounting that the House would strongly consider the bill. It appears that the Vermont House Judiciary Committee decided to, instead, chart a completely new course.

Yesterday the committee chairwoman, Democratic House Rep. Maxine Grad, said that they changed the legalization bill dramatically.

Instead of offering retail cannabis stores, the House committee members could only seem to agree on decriminalizing the possession of up to two plants.

Vermont decriminalized possession of up to one ounce of marijuana in 2013 and those arrests have dropped about 80 percent.

But even under the new proposal the plants would not really be “legal” and underground cannabis farmers would see their micro-gardens confiscated.

Unless there is another equally dramatic shift in the Vermont House it looks like this maneuver could spell the end of the prospect that Vermont would be the first state to legislatively legalize marijuana for adult use in 2016.

Matt Simon, a coordinator for the Marijuana Policy Project told Vermont Public Radio:

“We would like to see a regulated market, and the bill they’re talking about today doesn’t have anything about a regulated market,” Simon says. “At the same time, we believe people should be able to grow a limited supply of their own plants and this bill would take the state in that direction, which the Senate bill didn’t do.”

It is notable that Washington, D.C. legalized marijuana possession and cultivation through a ballot initiative that earned 70% of the vote. Retail stores could not be attempted in D.C. because the city’s budget is controlled by the U.S. Congress.

Allowing home cultivation is seen as the hallmark to truly ending prohibition. Consumers growing their own buds also assists the transition from the underground market to an above ground enterprise while keeping prices down.

In the end, decriminalization is not legalization by any stretch. And two plants is certainly the most modest of civil tolerance.

We will continue to watch how things play out for marijuana in the Green Mountain State. But my dreams of fresh, THC infused maple syrup may have to wait.

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