Study commission announces five listening sessions; call Gov. Scott today!
Possession and limited cultivation of cannabis has been legal for adults in Vermont since July 1, but sales in the state remain illicit, unregulated, and untaxed. Fortunately, the November election paved the way for the state to legalize and regulate retail sales in 2019. The Vermont Democratic Party officially endorsed legalization and regulation at its convention in August, and then it expanded its legislative majorities in November, increasing the likelihood that the House and Senate will agree to pass a cannabis regulation bill.
Unfortunately, Gov. Phil Scott, who was re-elected, has said that he thinks Vermont “isn’t ready” for retail cannabis. However, now that sales to adults have begun in Massachusetts and Canada, he may be convinced to evolve on the issue in 2019.
Gov. Scott needs to hear that regulating cannabis will create jobs, spur economic development, and produce tax revenue while taking money and power away from organized crime. If he isn’t willing to evolve, we may need to override his veto by earning support from two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.
Additionally, the study commission has announced that it will be holding five listening sessions around the state. All sessions will begin at 6:30 p.m., and members of the public will be welcome to comment.
• Monday, November 26 in Rutland – Asa Bloomer Building, 2nd Floor, Room 266, 88 Merchants Row
• Wednesday, November 28 in Williston – Williston Central School Auditorium, 195 Central School Drive
• Monday, December 3 – Morse Center, Black Box Theatre, St. Johnsbury Academy, 1000 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, VT
• Wednesday, December 5 – Vermont Veteran’s Home, 325 North Street, Bennington, VT
• Thursday, December 6 – White River Junction National Guard Armory, 240 Main Street, White River Junction, VT
This proposal is a change from the governor’s past views on the topic; he previously said he was opposed to legalization, citing the now-debunked “gateway theory” as the reason. In fact, marijuana is simply a gateway to the criminal justice system and the lifetime of collateral consequences that come with a conviction.
While this is encouraging news, a study commission is only as good as the experts who serve on it. Please help us ensure that the commission includes experts in public health, marijuana policy, and criminal justice reform as well as the law enforcement officers Gov. Cuomo mentioned would be on it.
In recent weeks, legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Scott have reaffirmed that the legalization bill, H. 511, is expected to pass in early January. If that happens, marijuana possession and limited cultivation will become legal for adults 21 and older on July 1, 2018.
Despite these reassurances, we know that the vote will be close in the House of Representatives, so we are still fighting to earn every vote we can get. Please take a moment to call or email your representatives and urge them to support passage of H. 511.
Earlier this year, the Vermont became the first state to pass a legalization measure through its legislature. Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Scott, who opted to create a study commission to examine the issue. If the current measure becomes law, it will be the only legalization bill not passed through a voter initiative.
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.