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Vermont Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes Committee

Update: The bill passed a vote before the full Vermont Senate on February 24, 2016. It must pass a second time in the Senate before being referred to the House. 

The Vermont Senate Appropriations Committee passed the marijuana legalization bill 4-3 today. The next step is a floor vote before the full Senate.

“Most Vermonters believe it’s time to end prohibition and regulate marijuana, and it appears most of their state senators agree. We are hopeful that the Senate will approve this commonsense legislation and send it over to the House for its consideration,” said Matt Simon, the Montpelier-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.901px-Seal_of_Vermont_B_W.svg_-300x296

The plan has the support of the current Attorney General William Sorrell.

The RAND Corporation was commissioned to study the current underground marijuana market and discussed different plans for legalization in a report issued last year.

Vermont is home to 625,000 people. RAND found that “during 2014, Vermont residents likely consumed between 15 metric tons and 25 metric tons of marijuana, and spent between $125 million and $225 million on marijuana.”

The current bill, S241, would legalize possession of up to one ounce by adults age 21 and older. The state would license cultivation and retail locations. The legislation leaves open the possibility of supplying edible forms and allowing home cultivation down the road.

Governor Pete Shumlin has supported the move and issued a statement today following the vote.

“This bill will allow Vermont to undercut the black market and get rid of illegal drug dealers, focus on prevention and treatment, and do a better job than we do currently of keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and addressing drugged drivers who are already on Vermont’s roads,» said Gov. Shumlin.

“The War on Drugs policy of marijuana prohibition has failed. We can and should take a smarter approach. I look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature as this bill moves forward.”

If successful Vermont would be the first state in the country to fully legalize marijuana through the state legislation instead of a ballot initiative.