On Wednesday, Vermont’s state legislature became the first in the nation to vote for a bill legalizing recreational marijuana. Republican Gov. Phil Scott indicated last month that he would sign the bill if it arrived on his desk.
All eight of the previous states to legalize cannabis did so via the ballot initiative led directly by voters. Vermont on Wednesday broke the mold and demonstrated the swift current of legalization movement in America. Vermont is one of 23 states that do not allow citizens to present ballot measures directly to voters.
The Democratic-controlled Senate passed the measure by voice vote a week after the Democratic-controlled House voted in favor of the bill.
“This is a big step forward for Vermont,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization organization. “Vermonters should be proud that their state is becoming the first to do this legislatively, rather than by ballot initiative.”
The Vermont law allows adults (21 years and older) to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, two adult plants and four immature plants beginning on July 1. Retail sales will not be allowed until a commission releases recommendations on how to tax and regulate the products.
Massachusetts, Maine and six other states have legalized marijuana use as a result of voter initiatives. New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut are also moving quickly toward legalization. If all of New England becomes a legal cannabis zone, New York will be pressured to act.
According to a 2017 survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, 57% of Vermont adults support legalization for adults. Only 39% expressed opposition.
Vermont’s vote is a rebuke of last week’s announcement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Obama-era policy offering legal shelter for state-sanctioned cannabis sales is over.