Vermont Legislature Legalizes Marijuana, Makes History

[Update: Governor Scott signed the bill Monday.]

Vermont made history Saturday after the legislature passed a marijuana legalization bill into law. With Gov. Phil Scott's signature expected, Vermont will become the first state to have freed the weed via the legislative process, as opposed to through a voter initiative. The new law, House Bill 511, legalizes the possession of up to two ounces of pot and the cultivation of up to six plants (four immature and two mature) as of July 1, but does not legalize the taxed and regulated commercial production and sale of marijuana.

Montpelier says yes to marijuana. (Wikimedia)
Whether and when the state might open up legal marijuana commerce is up in the air for now. The bill calls for a task force appointed by the governor to study the issue and recommend "legislation on implementing and operating a comprehensive regulatory and revenue system for an adult marijuana market" by December 31. Then lawmakers would have to go to work again to get that passed.

All eight states that have already legalized marijuana have created taxed and regulated legal markets, although Vermont's New England neighbors Maine and Massachusetts have yet to implement theirs. Like Vermont, however, the District of Columbia legalized weed without legalizing sales.

New Hampshire could be the next New England state to go green, and like Vermont, it could be without allowing legal, taxed, and regulated sales. Last week, the House voted to approve House Bill 656, which would legalize the possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of pot and allow individuals to grow up to three plants. The vote came after the House amended the bill to remove provisions allowing for legal, taxed sales. That measure now goes to the state Senate.

New Jersey is another candidate to be the next state to legalize it at the state house. New Gov. Phil Murphy (D) campaigned on a pledge to pass legalization in his first 100 days, and legalization proponents have already filed the measures that would do that, Senate Bill 380 and its House counterpart Assembly Bill 1348.

Those bills would allow for a system of legal sales, but would not allow for personal cultivation. Of the nine states that have now legalized weed, only Washington state has gone down that path, and Washington lawmakers there are now reconsidering the ban on home grows.

Legalization bills are likely to pop up in a couple of dozen state legislatures this year, but that doesn't mean they'll pass. There are probably only a handful of states where there's even an outside chance of state house legalization this year, though. Other than New Hampshire and New Jersey, those would include Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, and New York.

But Vermont was the first. Let's hear it for the Green Mountain State.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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