Marijuana

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House defeats efforts to legalize, further decriminalize pot

Law enforcement officers listen to debate in the House about marijuana legalization. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House on Tuesday soundly rejected a Senate proposal to legalize marijuana and create a regulated retail market for the drug, and even fell short of decriminalizing the possession and cultivation of two marijuana plants. The House did manage to salvage a commission that will study the legalization of marijuana and report its findings back to the Legislature, likely setting up another push at legalization next year after the November election. The House first voted 121 to 28 Tuesday against the Senate’s proposal, which was strongly backed by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. The Senate passed the bill on a 17 to 12 vote. Rep. Chris Pearson, a Progressive from Burlington, was among the slim minority of House members who supported the Senate’s language. Continue Reading →

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House delays marijuana vote

MONTPELIER — The House Democratic leadership backed away from a vote on legalizing marijuana Monday night as a more modest compromise plan was being drafted for consideration. House Speaker Shap Smith and other leaders worked over the weekend and throughout Monday to craft a proposal that could get through the House. The Senate, which passed a bill earlier this year to create a legal, regulated retail marijuana market, attached its plan to a House bill that was expected to be considered by the House Monday. Gov. Peter Shumlin has been calling publicly for the House to vote on the Senate bill, but the House has not been willing to act. Smith has been saying for weeks that his chamber did not have the votes to pass any legalization bill, but relented to a floor vote as he faced withering criticism for holding up the bill. Continue Reading →

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Senate tries to spur House into action on marijuana legalization

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MONTPELIER — The Senate on Wednesday attached the language it passed earlier this year creating a legal, regulated marijuana market to a House-passed bill dealing with criminal procedures, a move designed to spur the House into action on legalizing pot. The House has not considered S.241, the Senate’s marijuana legalization bill passed earlier this year, on the floor. After being scaled back by the House Judiciary Committee to only include a commission to examine the issue, the House Ways and Means Committee amended it again to legalize up to 1 ounce of pot and the cultivation of two marijuana plants. The legislation has been stalled in the House Appropriations Committee for nearly two weeks, however. Without the votes to advance it, the committee has opted to let the clock tick down on the legislative biennium. Continue Reading →

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Highway safety bill challenges civil liberties

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers have given final approval to a transportation bill that creates a threshold for marijuana intoxication, with critics saying the legislation is not based on science and could lead to the disclosure of private medical information. On Wednesday, lawmakers approved SB 225, which lowers the threshold for a driver’s alcohol level when combined with marijuana, and paves the way for roadside saliva tests that reveal not just the presence of THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — but other drugs as well. Under the terms of the bill, a driver would be considered impaired when having a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 when combined with a THC count of 1.5 nanograms.

The current drunken-driving BAC threshold is 0.08. Prior to Wednesday, the bill called for an intoxication level of 0.05 for alcohol when combined with any measurable amount of marijuana. However, Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, introduced an amendment setting a specific amount of THC, which he said was based on numerous studies equating 1.5 nanograms with intoxication. Continue Reading →

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House Ways and Means amends pot bill, backs legalization

MONTPELIER — The House Ways and Means Committee has voted to approve an amendment to a marijuana bill that would allow for the legal possession of up to 1 ounce and cultivation of up to two marijuana plants. The amendment, which materialized in the committee Thursday, passed on a 7-4 vote Friday after a few minor changes. It would fundamentally alter the bill advanced by the House Judiciary Committee last week. The Judiciary Committee’s work stripped out the Senate’s language that legalized marijuana and created a regulatory structure for its retail sale. But support for that never materialized among Judiciary Committee members, so it was amended to create a commission to study the issue. Continue Reading →

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Proposed Ways and Means amendment would legalize possession, home-grown pot

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MONTPELIER — The House Ways and Means Committee is considering an amendment to a marijuana bill that would allow for the legal possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana and cultivation of up to two marijuana plants. The amendment, which materialized in the committee on Thursday, could come up for a vote as early as Friday, according to members of the committee. It would fundamentally alter the bill advanced by the House Judiciary Committee last week. The Ways and Means Committee is reviewing a bill from House Judiciary that stripped away all legalization language and replaced it with a commission to study the issue. But about $500,000 in costs contained in the bill were not funded. Continue Reading →

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House Judiciary passes stripped down pot bill

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MONTPELIER — The House Judiciary Committee scaled back a marijuana bill even further Friday in order to squeak it through the committee and keep the bill alive, setting the stage for a possible showdown with the Senate over legalization. By a 6 to 5 vote, the House passed a revamped S.241, which came from the Senate approving legalization for possessing up to one ounce of marijuana. But support for the Senate version never materialized in the House committee. A first attempt to pass the bill Friday that sought to decriminalize the possession of up to two marijuana plants failed on a 5 to 6 vote. After stripping out the expanded decriminalization of the drug, the committee turned Rep. Bill Frank, D-Underhill, who helped it advance on the second vote. Continue Reading →

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House pot bill would keep it illegal, decriminalize cultivation

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers are considering an alternative marijuana bill that would not go as far as legalization, but would decriminalize small-scale cultivation. Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee took up an alternative to S.241 — the legalization bill that cleared the Senate in February — that would keep marijuana illegal, but would decriminalize the cultivation of as many as two plants. The alternative bill was put forward by committee Chairwoman Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, who noted the lack of support in her committee for full legalization. “I know it will not go as far as some people will go, but it goes further than other people would like to go,” Grad said. “I don’t expect people to jump on board or change their minds, but this is something that reflects the testimony we have heard.”

During an evening hearing held last week by the committee, many members of the public urged lawmakers to allow personal cultivation. Continue Reading →

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Story + Video: Public weighs in on marijuana legalization

MONTPELIER — Advocates and opponents — many more of the former than the latter — offered testimony Thursday night on the topic of marijuana legalization. Nearly 60 people — plus many more who were there to watch — gathered at the State House On Thursday night to offer testimony on S.241, which would allow for the legal possession and sale of marijuana in 2018. Under the terms of the bill, a Vermont resident would be able to purchase as much as half an ounce from a licensed retailer. Cultivation would also be limited to a handful of licensed businesses. Overall, 34 people signed up to offer testimony in favor of legalization; 19 people testified in opposition to the bill and five people were undecided. Continue Reading →

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Senate approves marijuana legalization

MONTPELIER — Senators made it easier for the little guy to break into the cultivation business when they gave their final approval to marijuana legalization. By a vote of 17 to 12 Thursday afternoon, the Senate approved what has been arguably been the most debated bill of this legislative session, and in doing so, sends it on to House for further discussion. “It’s a relief for me to have it out of the Senate,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and someone who became an unlikely advocate for legalization. Sears thanked his fellow lawmakers, including colleagues such as Sens. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia, and Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden, both of whom voted for the bill while in committee despite their opposition, which allowed the bill to come to the Senate floor for debate. Continue Reading →

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