Beginning this week, the Rand Corporation will send representatives to Vermont to work with the state’s Secretary of Administration on a study of the effects of taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol, the Manchester Journal reports.This research was mandated by an amendment to a bill that made several improvements to Vermont’s medical marijuana law. Vermont will be funding the initial part of the study, paying Rand $20,000, with up to $100,000 in private donations coming from the non-profit organization GiveWell. Rand Corporation is a non-partisan organization with no official position on marijuana legalization.
Governor Peter Shumlin, Commissioner Keith Flynn of the Department of Safety, and other top officials have expressed interest in learning more about how marijuana regulation would impact Vermont. State Senator David Zuckerman, who sponsored a marijuana regulation bill this year, said he was enthusiastic about the study process: “I think the study will help with legislators and the public who inherently think it’s a good idea but want evidence they can hold up to show people.” Matt Simon, MPP’s New England political director, said, “The narrative from Colorado has been ‘so far, so good.’ The sky clearly hasn’t fallen.” The report is due to be completed by January and lawmakers hope that it will lead to an informed debate on marijuana policy in the coming legislative session.
The provisions of SB 247 took effect today, moving Vermont’s marijuana policies yet another step forward. This new law eliminates the cap of 1,000 patients who may access dispensaries, allows naturopaths to certify patients, and allows dispensaries to deliver marijuana to patients.
It’s great to see that legislators are responding to the will of voters, who strongly support ending marijuana prohibition. A recent Castleton poll commissioned by MPP found that 57% of Vermonters support regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol. Only 34% said they were opposed.
But it will take more than a majority to get this passed into law in the next session. MPP is preparing to embark on a statewide organizing and coalition-building effort that will maximize our chances.
On Wednesday, the Vermont Senate gave final approval to a bill that will improve access to medical marijuana and remove the arbitrary cap of 1,000 patients who may benefit from dispensaries. S. 247 was approved by the House last week, and the bill will now move forward to Governor Peter Shumlin’s desk where it will receive his signature.
Sponsored by Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), this bill will increase possession limits for dispensaries, allow them to deliver medical marijuana to patients, and permit naturopaths to certify patients for the program. Additionally, the bill was amended by the House to initiate two studies: One will explore the possibility of adding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical marijuana program, and one will evaluate the potential impact of making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it similarly to alcohol.
That’s right — not only did Vermont legislators improve the medical marijuana law this year, but they are already gathering the information they will need to consider sensible marijuana policy reforms during next year’s legislative session.
On Tuesday, in a 12-5 vote, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee approved a bill that would decriminalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. HB 1625, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket), would reduce the possession penalty to a violation punishable by a fine of up to $100. It would also reduce the penalty for possessing up to six plants from a felony to a misdemeanor, and it would reduce the maximum penalties for other marijuana offenses.
Vermont decriminalized marijuana possession in 2013, leaving New Hampshire as the only state in New England that maintains a criminal penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana. This makes no sense, especially in a state known as the “Live Free or Die” state.
This is great progress, but we can’t stop here. The addition of four dispensaries has dramatically improved access for patients, and over 1,000 patients have now registered for Vermont’s program. But there are still a number of issues with Vermont’s medical marijuana law that need to be addressed, including an absurd restriction that only 1,000 Vermont patients may be served by dispensaries.
We are currently urging Vermont legislators to pass S. 247, which would eliminate the 1,000-patient cap and make other positive changes to Vermont’s medical marijuana law. Sponsored by Senator Jeanette White (D), S. 247would authorize the Department of Public Safety to license two additional dispensaries. It would also allow dispensaries to deliver marijuana to patients, and it would allow naturopaths to certify patients for the program.
S. 247has already been approved by two Senate committees, and a vote is expected soon by the full Senate.