Yesterday, the Vermont Senate amended and passed H. 511, a bill that would make marijuana legal in Vermont. Unfortunately, the House rejected an effort to bring the bill up for consideration, and the veto session ended without further action. H. 511 will have to wait until the Legislature reconvenes — either later this year or in January — before it can pass the House and advance to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott.
A group of representatives led by Rep. Don Turner (R-Milton) delayed passage of H. 511 by opposing a vote to suspend rules and consider the bill. The vote to suspend rules — which required three-quarters of members to vote in favor — was 78-63, considerably short of the 107 votes that would have been needed to consider the bill.
If you are a Vermont resident, you can see how your representatives voted and send them a follow-up message.
The House voted to pass a similar bill earlier this year, so there is little question that H. 511 will pass when it is brought to a vote. Unfortunately, this may not be possible until the Legislature reconvenes in January. It’s also possible that the Legislature will hold a special session later this year, and the bill could be considered then.
On the bright side, H, 511 was not scheduled to take effect until July 1, 2018, so this delay may have no impact on the effective date of legalization.
For the third time this year, the Vermont Senate has passed a marijuana legalization bill. This time, the bill has been revised to address Gov. Phil Scott’s concerns, and we have good reason to expect that he will sign it when it reaches his desk.
Unfortunately, it is not clear at all when the amended bill, H. 511, might receive a vote in the House. The House voted to pass a similar bill earlier this year, so there is little question that H. 511 will pass when it is brought to a vote. However, since the current veto session is scheduled to end tomorrow, the bill will not be considered unless three-quarters of House members vote to suspend the rules and allow consideration.
Republican House Leader Don Turner has said that his caucus will likely block the bill from being considered until 2018. Vermonters should not tolerate this attempt to obstruct a reform that has earned the support of the Senate, House, and governor.
“There is no good reason for the House to delay passage of this modest and sensible legislation,” MPP's Matt Simon said in a press release. “Now that Gov. Scott has agreed with the House and Senate that marijuana should be legal for adult use, House Republicans should follow the governor’s lead and vote to advance this compromise. Failing to waive the rules will only mean the marijuana regulatory commission has less time to do its important work.”
If you are a Vermont resident, please call your representatives right now, and urge them to push for an up or down vote on H. 511.