Senate OKs pot legalization measure

MONTPELIER — After some debate Friday, the Vermont Senate OK’d a proposal that would legalize marijuana in the Green Mountain State and create a system to regulate and tax marijuana sales.
The proposal, which would create a system similar to the model currently in place in Colorado, came after several members of the Senate expressed frustration that the House has not advanced a marijuana legalization bill this year.
The amendment was approved by the Senate on a vote of 21 in favor, 9 opposed. Both Addison County senators — Democrats Claire Ayer and Christopher Bray — voted in favor.
Sen. Jeannette White, D-Windham, offered the language as an amendment to H.167, a House bill the Senate changed to encourage people charged with misdemeanor drug crimes to use the pretrial services program.
White’s amendment drew heavily from the text of a marijuana legalization proposal the Senate approved twice last year.
After twice passing marijuana legalization last year only to see it die in the House, Senate leaders said any move on the issue this year would need to start on the House side.
The House Judiciary Committee did move forward on the issue, passing H.170, a bill that would have legalized adult possession of limited amounts of marijuana without creating a regulated or taxed system.
It was expected to come up for a vote on the House floor in March, but at the last minute was sidelined to another committee for further study amid uncertainty whether there were enough votes for it to pass.
Frustrated by House inaction, White offered the amendment to H.167, a bill the House passed last month that would direct legislative counsel to study and make recommendations on changing penalties for drug possession. The Senate Judiciary Committee substantially revised the proposal to study pretrial services and access to drug treatment.
White does not expect her amendment or H.170 to pass the House and become law this year.
“There’s no way that either bill is going to make it to the finish line this year,” she said on Wednesday.

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