Vermont Senate Committee Approves Marijuana Regulation Bill


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VT Coalition logo - SmallThe Vermont Senate Committee on Judiciary approved a bill (4-1) on Friday that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and regulate marijuana for adult use.

S. 241 would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores. It would also create a study commission to examine issues such as edible marijuana products and home cultivation, which would not be allowed under the bill. It would remain illegal to consume marijuana in public or drive under the influence of marijuana. If approved, rulemaking would begin this summer, but the new law would not take effect until January 2018. The bill will now go to the Senate Committee on Finance for consideration.

VT commercial screenshotThe Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana is working to build support for the bill and keep up the momentum. It recently launched a  television ad, produced by the Marijuana Policy Project, which features former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney. Cheney was also the subject of a series of web ads launched earlier this month.

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Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Launches TV Ad Campaign


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The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana released a new television ad this week, produced by the Marijuana Policy Project, featuring Vermont’s former top law enforcement official. The ad began airing statewide on Tuesday and will appear on WCAX, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC through Sunday.VT commercial screenshot

In the ad, titled “Time to End Prohibition (Again),” former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney points out that “marijuana prohibition has caused a lot of the same problems” as Alcohol Prohibition. The ad ends with Cheney urging viewers to contact their state senators and tell them, “It’s time to end prohibition and start regulating marijuana in Vermont.”

In a news release, MPP’s Montpelier-based New England political director, Matt Simon, said:

“Mr. Cheney decided to appear in this ad for the same reason he served as the state’s top law enforcement official. He cares strongly about the safety and wellbeing of Vermont citizens. 

“There are a lot of current and former law enforcement officials out there who support ending prohibition and regulating marijuana. It’s important that citizens and lawmakers hear from them.”

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Vermont Coalition Launches Ad Campaign with Former State Attorney General


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On Tuesday, the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana held a press conference to announce the launch of an ad campaign featuring former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney highlighting the benefits of regulating marijuana.

Cheney served as Vermont attorney general from 1973 to 1975. Previously, he served as an assistant attorney general and was elected Washington County states attorney. He has held a variety of other civic positions and is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

The ads can be viewed here.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Vermont Governor Asks Legislature to End Prohibition


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Yesterday, in his state of the state address, Gov. Peter Shumlin asked the Vermont Legislature to develop and pass a marijuana regulation bill in the 2016 session. “I will work with you,” he told legislators, “to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin. VTD/Josh Larkin
Gov. Peter Shumlin. VTD/Josh Larkin

This is great news, but passage of a marijuana regulation bill is far from being a done deal in Montpelier. Senate committees will begin working out the details very soon, but many legislators remain either opposed or on the fence.

If you are a Vermont resident, please contact your lawmakers and tell them you agree with Gov. Shumlin that it’s time to end prohibition.

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Vermont Marijuana Regulation Bill to Be Introduced


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A new bill to make marijuana legal for adults and regulated similarly to alcohol in Vermont will be introduced next month, according to bill sponsors.

The Times Argus reports:

Legislation to be introduced next month when lawmakers return to the State House would allow those 21 and older to grow and possess marijuana for recreational use as early as July.

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Sen. Joe Benning
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Sen. Jeanette White

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Jeanette White, D-Windham, and Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, would allow for lounges, where customers could purchase and use marijuana, and retail outlets in 2017. Edible products would not be allowed.

Personal cultivation and use would allow residents to grow marijuana in plots of up to 100 square feet. Marijuana possession would be limited to 1 ounce. Anything harvested over that amount would be required to be in a secured location. The private sale of marijuana between two parties would not be allowed, and marijuana could not be exchanged for anything of value except at a state-permitted retail establishment.

There are still details that legislators say will be dealt with in committee next session. If you are a Vermont resident, please urge your lawmakers to support making marijuana legal and visit the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana.

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The New York Times Asks Obama and Congress to Take Lead Ending Marijuana Prohibition


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Continuing its support for sensible marijuana policies, The New York Times published an editorial Thursday asking Congress and the president to support a bill, introduced this week by Sen. Bernie Sanders, that would allow states to determine their own marijuana laws.

Support for making marijuana legal is increasing around the world, and that is a good thing. Earlier this week, the Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing the drug by giving four plaintiffs the right to grow cannabis for personal use.New-York-Times-Logo

In Canada, the newly sworn in prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he intends to change the law so people can use the drug recreationally; medicinal use is already legal in that country. And in the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, recently introduced a bill that would let states decide if they want to make the drug legal without worrying about violating federal law.

Laws banning the growing, distribution and possession of marijuana have caused tremendous damage to society, with billions spent on imprisoning people for violating pointlessly harsh laws. Yet research shows that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, and can be used to treat medical conditions like chronic pain.

What’s needed now is responsible leadership from President Obama and Congress. They ought to seriously consider the kind of legislation Mr. Sanders has proposed.

You can read the full editorial here.

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Vermont Attorney General Predicts Legislature Will Legalize Marijuana 2016


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Attorney General Bill Sorrell

While many states will be considering making marijuana legal in 2016, Vermont may be the first to do so through its legislature. MPP’s New England Political Director Matt Simon is so optimistic that he is moving to the state from nearby New Hampshire in order to spend more time working with lawmakers there. Now, the state’s attorney general has predicted that Vermont will make history next year.

VTDigger.org reports:

[Attorney General Bill] Sorrell said in an interview Tuesday that while he doesn’t have any “insider information,” it’s his belief that the General Assembly will pass, and the governor will sign, legislation to legalize and regulate the recreational use and sale of marijuana during the upcoming legislative session.

While no “prominent Vermonter” has told him that marijuana will be legalized, his reading of the tea leaves (“or the marijuana leaves,” he quipped) is that this is the year for legalization.

“Let me put it this way, I will be surprised if marijuana is not legalized in this next legislative session,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vermont House Speaker Supports Legalization


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Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith, previously undecided about whether to support a bill that would make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol, has put his support behind such a measure for the 2016 session

VT House Speaker Shap Smith (photo: Ben Sarle) .

Vermont Public Radio reports:

For months, Smith has taken a “wait and see” position concerning the legalization of marijuana. He said he wanted to remain undecided until Vermont lawmakers could closely evaluate the experience of Colorado and Washington, the two states that have legalized marijuana for more than a year.

Smith is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2016, and this legislation could be become a campaign issue.

Smith says he thinks it makes sense for Vermont to legalize marijuana if it can be done with a thoughtful approach.

“It’s clear to me in my discussions with Vermonters that in general, the people in this state probably favor legalization,” Smith said on VPR’s Vermont Edition on Aug. 28. “And I certainly believe that we can legalize marijuana if we do it right … we’ve seen what has happened in Colorado and Washington, and we can learn from their experiences.”

Earlier this year, Sen. David Zuckerman and Rep. Chris Pearson introduced legislation to regulate marijuana, but the session adjourned before they were able to get a vote.

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New Vermont Law Allows Expungement of Misdemeanor Marijuana Records


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Sen. Joe Benning

In addition to Vermont‘s substantial progress on marijuana regulation this year, state legislators quietly passed a bill that will make a big difference in the lives of people who have been convicted of misdemeanors for marijuana possession. Sponsored by Senator Joe Benning (R-Lyndonville), S. 115 allows Vermonters who have been convicted of crimes for “conduct [that] is no longer prohibited by law or designated as a criminal offense” to have their records expunged after one year (in most cases).

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed S. 115 into law May 26. It took effect upon passage. As a result, individuals who were convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession before Vermont’s decriminalization law passed in 2013 may now petition the court to have their record expunged.

Please share this excellent news with your friends and family, or with anybody you know who has been convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.

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Vermont Poll Shows Majority Support Making Marijuana Legal


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A new poll released by the Castleton Polling InstituteScreen Shot 2015-03-18 at 4.46.33 PM shows that a majority of Vermont residents want to make marijuana legal and regulated for adults.

VTDigger.org reports:

Respondents in the recent poll were asked: “Two states — Washington and Colorado — have legalized and regulated marijuana for recreational use. Do you support or oppose passing a similar law in Vermont to legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use?”

Of those surveyed, 54 percent supported the idea with 40 percent opposed. Six percent had no opinion.

Support was particularly strong among young people with 70 percent of respondents age 18-44 (or 161 people) in favor. The results were about opposite for those 65 and older, who opposed legalization 61 percent to 30 percent.

“Clearly, the opposition remains most substantial among voters who are 65-plus and Republicans,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project. “I guess some people remain nostalgic for a simpler time when you could ‘Just Say No’ and be done with the issue, but any realistic person realizes that those days are long gone — that marijuana is here to stay whether we like it or not, and we have to figure out how best to deal with it.”

Vermont lawmakers are currently considering a bill which would tax and regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol.

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