Vermont House Votes to Delay Legalization Bill


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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.

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Vermont Senate Approves Legalization Compromise Bill


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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.

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Colorado Governor Signs PTSD Bill


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Colorado just added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying conditions for the state’s medical marijuana program.

The Cannabist reports:

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday signed Senate Bill 17 into law. The bill opens the doors for Colorado residents to receive a doctor’s OK to use medical marijuana in the treatment of PTSD symptoms.

It’s the first new qualifying condition added under the state’s medical marijuana law since it was implemented in 2001. The state’s eight other qualifying conditions are: cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, cachexia, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, severe nausea, and severe pain.

The inclusion of PTSD among Colorado’s medical marijuana qualifying conditions has been a hotly contested issue of recent years.

Coordinated bids led by veterans groups fell short as the Colorado Board of Health quashed requests for PTSD’s inclusion and legislative measures languished in the General Assembly. The Colorado Board of Health has not added any new qualifying conditions since the medical marijuana law’s inception, citing lack of “peer-reviewed published studies of randomized controlled trials or well-designed observational studies showing efficacy in humans,” officials have previously told The Cannabist.

After the Board of Health’s most recent denial of the proposed addition of PTSD, proponents filed suit against the state. That case is pending in Colorado Appeals Court.

Proponents have argued that it’s not cost-effective for PTSD patients and it’s a risk to military veterans’ benefits to purchase recreational marijuana as a potential treatment for their ailments. Additionally, they argue that there is limited availability of suitable marijuana products — heavy in the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD) and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — that have been claimed effective for symptoms such as anxiety, nightmares and pain.

Twenty-five of the 29 states with medical marijuana programs now allow patients with PTSD to qualify. Bills to add PTSD to state medical marijuana programs have been approved and are now awaiting governors’ signatures in New Hampshire and Vermont.

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Vermont Governor Vetoes Legalization, but Offers ‘Path Forward’


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On Wednesday, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott vetoed a bill that would have made marijuana legal for adults in Vermont, but offered “a path forward” for passing it later this year. He specified a handful of changes that would need to be made for him to support the measure and said he believes the legislature has time to incorporate them and enact a revised version during the summer veto session.

MPP’s Matt Simon responded in a press release:

We are disappointed by the governor’s decision to veto this widely supported legislation, but we are very encouraged by the governor’s offer to work with legislators to pass a legalization bill during the summer veto session. Most Vermonters want to end marijuana prohibition, and it is critical that the legislature respond by passing a revised legalization bill this summer. Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and there is no good reason to continue treating responsible adult consumers like criminals.

Despite the veto, this is a huge leap forward. The passage of S. 22 demonstrates most members of both legislative chambers are ready to move forward with making marijuana legal for adults. Lawmakers have an opportunity to address the governor’s concerns and pass a revised bill this summer, and we are excited about its prospects.

MPP and the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana will continue to work with the legislature and governor to ensure that a compromise can be reached before the end of the veto session in July.

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Vermont Legalization Bill Heads to the Governor’s Desk


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On Thursday, Vermont’s marijuana legalization bill was delivered to the desk of Governor Phil Scott. He will now have five days to decide whether to sign S. 22 into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

In its final version, S. 22 would eliminate penalties for adults’ possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, two or fewer mature plants, and four or fewer immature plants, effective on July 1, 2018. The bill would also create a study commission to craft legislation on how to best regulate and tax marijuana in Vermont. The commission’s recommendations would have to be drafted by November so they can be considered by the Legislature in 2018.

A summary of S. 22 is available here.

If you are a Vermont resident, please call Governor Scott’s office today, and encourage him to sign this sensible reform into law. If you’ve already called the office, please follow up with an email message.

The governor says he has not yet made up his mind, and it’s crucial that he hear from as many supporters of sensible marijuana policy as possible!

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Vermont Legislature Votes to Legalize Marijuana


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Today, the Vermont Legislature became the first state legislature in the nation to approve a marijuana legalization bill and send it to a governor’s desk! The House voted 79-66 to concur with the Senate’s amendment to S. 22, which means the next step will be the governor’s office! Governor Phil Scott will have three options when the bill arrives on his desk: sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

The amended S. 22 represents a reasonable compromise between the House and Senate. As amended, the bill would eliminate penalties for adults’ possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, two or fewer mature plants, and four or fewer immature plants, effective on July 1, 2018. S. 22 would also create a study commission to craft legislation on how to best regulate and tax marijuana in Vermont. The commission’s bill would have to be drafted in time for the beginning of next year’s legislative session.

If you are a Vermont resident, please call Governor Scott right now, and urge him to sign S. 22 when it reaches his desk.

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Vermont Senate Passes Another Marijuana Bill


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On Friday, for the second time this year, the Vermont Senate voted to legalize marijuana for adults’ use! The Senate voted 20-9 to attach the legalization language from H. 170 to an unrelated bill, S. 22, and added a study commission to consider regulation and taxation. It will now be up to the House whether or not to concur with the Senate’s offer of amendment.

This move represents an attempt by the Senate to compromise with the House, which voted for the first time in its history to legalize marijuana earlier this week. H. 170, which would eliminate penalties for adults’ possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, two or fewer mature plants, and four or fewer immature plants, passed the House in a 75-71 vote. The Senate prefers a regulated market approach, but today’s vote shows that senators are willing to accept H. 170 as long as it includes a pathway to sensible regulation.

Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Projectreleased the following statement in a press release:

“You have to give the Senate credit for standing up for Vermont voters, who strongly support making marijuana legal for adults. We hope the House will do the same and concur with S. 22 as amended by the Senate. This is not just a reasonable compromise, but an important step forward for supporters of both home cultivation and regulation. The bill would eliminate penalties for adult possession and cultivation, as the House sought to do with H. 170, and create a commission to explore regulating and taxing marijuana, which the Senate clearly supports. This bill proposes a very thoughtful and deliberate approach to replacing prohibition with a more sensible marijuana policy.”

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Vermont House Approves Bill to Legalize Possession, Home Cultivation


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Late Tuesday, the Vermont House of Representatives made history by voting to legalize marijuana. H. 170, which would eliminate penalties for adults’ possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and limited home cultivation passed the House in a 74-68 vote. If the bipartisan measure is approved at a third reading, which is expected this week, it will advance to the Senate.

H. 170, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), Vice Chair Charles Conquest (D-Wells River), and ranking Republican Rep. Tom Burditt (R-West Rutland), would eliminate Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana, and it would eliminate penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants. Penalties for possession of more than one ounce of marijuana would also be reduced.

The Senate has already agreed with the House that personal possession and cultivation should be legal for adults. On April 21, the Senate voted 21-9 to amend a House-passed bill (H. 167) to include language of a comprehensive legalization and regulation bill. That bill, which passed the Senate, mirrors the personal possession and cultivation provisions of H.170. The original House version would not take effect until January 2019, whereas the Senate-amended bill would take effect on July 1, 2017.

MPP released the following statement in a press release:

“We applaud the House for approving this commonsense legislation and hope their colleagues in the Senate will agree that it’s time to move forward with this important reform,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Most Vermonters support this bill, in part because they know that marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and it’s time to start treating it that way.”

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Vermont House Moves Legalization Bill Back to Committee


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On Tuesday, the Vermont House of Representatives appeared to be ready to pass H. 170, which would legalize marijuana possession and cultivation for adults. Unfortunately, instead of calling for a vote on the floor, House leaders decided to send the bill to the Human Services Committee for further consideration.

If you are a Vermont resident, it is critically important that the House speaker’s office hear from you on this issue. Please call the speaker’s office now at (802) 828-2245, and urge House leaders to bring H. 170 to the floor for a vote as soon as possible and pass it on to the Senate.

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Key Committee Approves Marijuana Possession Bill in Vermont


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The Vermont House Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 to approve H. 170, a bill that would eliminate penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and a small number of plants. Additionally, an independent poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project and conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 57% of Vermonters support H. 170.

As amended by the committee, H. 170 would eliminate penalties for adults 21 and older who possess one ounce or less of marijuana, two mature plants, and four immature plants — as well as the marijuana produced by those plants, if stored properly in accordance with the law. Possession of between one and two ounces would become a civil violation punishable by a fine.

“Today’s vote shows just how far this issue has advanced in just this past year,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a press release. “Most Vermonters agree it makes no sense to continue punishing adults for consuming a less harmful substance than alcohol — especially now that it is legal for adults in Massachusetts and Maine. Vermonters are ready to close the book on marijuana prohibition.”

If you are a Vermont resident, it is critically important that you call or email your representatives today and urge them to vote YES on H. 170.

 

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