A new measure would prioritize minorities, women, and those disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs for a marijuana business license.
A bill that would create a licensed recreational marijuana market in Vermont is headed to Gov. Phil Scott’s office. Residents could legally possess and consume marijuana for the past two years, but had no legal means to acquire it. This legislation would change that.
When Vermont Legislature introduced and passed cannabis legalization in 2018, the state became the first to end prohibition through lawmaker impetus instead of a ballot initiative led by advocates. However, Vermont lawmakers failed to create a legal system of cannabis sales in the process.
The new measure underwent a lengthy back-and-forth between the Vermont House and Senate. Following compromises by both sides, the bill passed each chamber and still requires Scott’s final approval. The Republican Governor hasn’t indicated whether he’ll sign the bill, though commented that lawmakers addressed many of his concerns and have “come a long ways.”
“Vermont legislators should be applauded for their hard work fine-tuning the cannabis regulation bill and sending it forward to the governor’s desk,” Matt Simon, New England political director at the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Fresh Toast. “This was a difficult compromise, but legislators worked hard to ensure that a wide range of concerns were addressed.”
One such condition requested by Scott was roadside testing for driving under the influence of cannabis. The House proposed a roadside saliva test obtained with a warrant, which received approval from the Senate. Other notable aspects of the bill include a 20% total tax on all products, a 30% THC limit on flower and 60% THC on concentrated oils. A ban would be placed on flavored vape cartridges.
Minorities, women, and those disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs will receive priority for cannabis business licenses as part of the package.
“If Governor Scott signs S. 54 and S.234, Vermont will take the next critical steps towards truly fair and sensible cannabis policy,” said Laura Subin, director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. “Tens of thousands of individuals—disproportionately Black and Brown people—will no longer bear the burden of criminal convictions for possessing small amounts of cannabis.”
She added, “Now is the time for Vermont to move forward.”