Marijuana bill still alive in Vt. House

SALISBURY — Vermont House members this week continued to debate H.170, which would allow Vermonters to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana and up to two mature plants.
The handful of local lawmakers who turned out at Monday’s legislative breakfast in Salisbury gave a sense of where they stood on the issue.
The state Senate passed a marijuana legalization bill last year, but the initiative didn’t make it through the House. Last week the House Judiciary Committee sent the bill to the House floor, but, lacking enough support to pass, on Tuesday it was sent to the House Human Services Committee for its review.
It is unclear if the full House will vote on the bill this year.
Nevertheless, local lawmakers are giving it their consideration.
“I plan to vote in favor of this,” said Rep. Peter Conlon, D-Cornwall. “As our surrounding states move to legalization, we probably need to have a plan in place.”
Conlon said an estimated 100,000 Vermonters use recreational marijuana, and he believes H.170 “will reduce the conflict between law enforcement and citizens,” and “free up police to work on more serious and important matters.”
Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, voted for last year’s legalization bill, though she and some of her colleagues on the Health & Welfare Committee (which she chairs) had concerns about the impact of marijuana on youth and impaired driving.
Ayer continues to support legislation that would legalize and regulate the use of recreational marijuana.
Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, voted against the Senate marijuana bill last year, based on health and public safety concerns. He is not yet sure on how he will vote on the House-passed bill.
Rep Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, said he’ll vote against H.170. He believes Vermont should hold off on such an action until other states have solved problems associated with legal cultivation and sale of pot.
For example, Smith said Colorado has not yet resolved concerns about the use of pesticides in growing marijuana.
“It’s still very much a wild west,” Smith said of the legal states.
Middlebury attorney Dave Silberman, a longtime advocate for legalization, disagreed. At Monday’s breakfast ge said Colorado has approved some pesticides for marijuana cultivation and added legalization has eliminated “70 percent of the black market” for the substance.
“Regulation (of marijuana) works,” Silberman said, as opposed to “pretending that a massive commercial industry doesn’t exist.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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