Vermont could soon be the first state to legalize cannabis through legislature instead of a vote. On Thursday, Jan. 4, the Vermont House of Representatives voted 81 to 63 to approve a bill to legalize possession and home cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 years and older.
The latest version of H.511 would end cannabis prohibition in Vermont. “Vermont is poised to make history by becoming the first state to legalize marijuana cultivation and possession legislatively, rather than by ballot initiative,” stated Matt Simon, the New England policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We applaud lawmakers for heeding the calls of their constituents and taking this important step toward treating marijuana more like alcohol.”
If passed, the bill would allow for the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis or up to five grams of hashish, and permit home cultivation for up to two mature plants or four immature plants for adults. The bill initially would also set up a commission to investigate a potential regulated market in Vermont, although a House Judiciary Committee scrapped the idea, because Gov. Phil Scott created his own panel.
An earlier bill to legalize cannabis, S. 41, was approved in the House and Senate earlier this year, but Gov. Scott vetoed it, based on unfinished reports on cannabis impairment. According to local news outlets, Gov. Scott is expected to sign the new bill, saying he is “comfortable” about approving recreational cannabis.
The approval happened on the same day that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, signaling a potential crackdown on states with legal cannabis. New Jersey is next in line to legalize cannabis via legislature, rather than the more popular method of putting it to a vote during election season.
The bill now heads to the Senate, and if there are no chances, it could be signed by Gov. Scott in a matter of weeks.