Legislators from the Vermont House and Senate, as a part of a small conjoined committee, have come to an agreement regarding sales of cannabis in the state.
Following the House and Senate approval of their respective bill versions, the topic was passed on to a bicameral conference committee that consists of six individuals. Then, a series of meetings to discuss S. 54 required negotiations between the members of that committee to discuss the differences between the House and Senate bills, such as tax percentages, advertising requirements and other bill language.
Many compromises were made to enable S. 54 to move forward. This includes a set excise tax of 14 percent, and the money of which would not directly go toward local cities (instead, they would receive benefit funds from licensing fees). Also, if a saliva test is needed to determine a person’s impairment when driving, it may not be done curbside and a warrant would be required. Although the House wanted to completely get rid of advertising opportunities, it was agreed that this can be worked on via the state attorney general and the state health department. Many more changes and alterations can be reviewed here thanks to a breakdown written by the Marijuana Policy Project.
The committee deliberated on many topics, but ultimately offered a good balance in compromising. “It’s not perfect. There’s a lot of compromise, a lot of give and take on both sides to get to a place where we could reach agreement,” Senator Dick Sears told the Bennington Banner. “I have been on many conference committees in my career, and this was not easy. This is a compromise that puts us on a path to a tax-and-regulate system. And I think it’s important to say it’s a start, not a finish.”
If the bill officially becomes law, it would technically go into effect starting October 1, 2020. More realistically, it looks like October 1, 2022 is a ballpark estimate for the necessary changes to go into effect, once decided (this is the date that dispensary licenses must be issued by).
The bill isn’t in the clear yet, as it must be passed to the House once again, then the Senate, and then to Governor Phil Scott.