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Vermont Senate Passes Marijuana Legalization Bill

For the second time this week the Vermont Senate approved a bill to legalize marijuana for adults in a floor vote. The final tally was 17 to 12.

The bill now goes to the Vermont House where it faces a tougher test. Governor Pete Shumlin is willing to sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.

Vermont is on the way to being the first state to pass an adult-use legalization law through the legislative process instead of a ballot initiative.

“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,» said Matt Simon, the Montpelier-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“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.”

Vermont state house

Vermont State House

The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana noted that on Monday, Vermont Public Radio released 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.

The plan has the support of Attorney General William Sorrell.

The 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.

Gov Shumlin has consistently supported passing the measure. He issued a statement following the approval by the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this week.

“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 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.”