The Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill that would clear the way for a legal cannabis market in the Green Mountain State, where adult-use cannabis already exists.
After several months of speculation and a marathon five-hour meeting on Feb. 26, 2020, members hashed out amendments to the state’s cannabis bill and decided on the legislation with a full chamber vote of 90-54.
Vermont’s Senate had already approved a bill with a veto-proof margin in 2018, making it the first state in the country to legalize adult-use marijuana through its Legislature.
The current measure, Senate Bill 54, (S.54) calls for cannabis sales to be charged a 20% tax, some of which will be used for after-school and summer learning programs, in accordance with a proposal from Vermont’s Governor Phil Scott (R), reported local radio network WCAX.
To date, only one other state, Illinois, has followed Vermont’s lead and taken legislative action to authorize adult-use cannabis sales.
While lawmakers had already approved legalized low-level possession and home cultivation for personal use in 2018, the state’s recreational cannabis program ran into nearly constant stumbling blocks when it came to setting up its retail system.
Supporters of S.54 say that creating a regulatory framework will better protect consumers while bringing in tax revenue.
“What we have now in place isn’t working, and this bill is an important step forward for our state,” said House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington), who noted most of her constituents support the measure.
A point of contention had been whether towns should be able to charge a local option tax for hosting cannabis retailers. Lawmakers chose to eliminate the 2% local option tax.
The current proposal of a tax-and-regulate model, similar to other legal states, should do the job.
Under S.54, the state’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries would be able to apply for lab and cultivation licenses in January 2022.
The bill also seeks to create a Cannabis Control Board to oversee and regulate marijuana sales. Members of the board will be appointed by Gov. Scott.
A number of other legislative steps remain before the bill goes to the governor, including a final House vote and resolving taxation and other differences between the House and Senate version.
Final approval would make Vermont the third state in the Northeast to establish a full-fledged recreational marijuana program, after Massachusetts and Maine.