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Editorial: Marijuana legalization is coming to Vermont

The possession of small of amounts of marijuana and its use will soon be legal in Vermont. That certainly became a reality on Wednesday when the Vermont Senate and Gov. Scott agreed on a compromise bill that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana legal for adults, while establishing a commission to study how the state could best regulate and tax the sale of marijuana for adult use. 
But there’s a caveat. While the revised bill received the Senate’s endorsement as well as Gov. Scott’s, it is unlikely that House Republicans will agree to suspend the rules (which takes a three-quarters vote) and approve the measure during the veto session this Thursday. If the House fails to act this week, the measure will be brought up for a House vote when the Legislature reconvenes next January, at which point approval is expected. 
In short, it is no longer a question of whether the bill will be approved, but when. 
As written, the measure would eliminate Vermont’s civil penalty for adults possessing one ounce or less of marjuana beginning in July 2018 and remove penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants. This allows individuals to grow their own and avoid the marketplace completely, if they choose. In addition, as part of the compromise the bill extends the due date for the study commission to submit its report, and the composition of the commission is significantly altered, ensuring more members appointed by the governor, as as well additional agency directors and the defender general — all moves to beef up the oversight by the law enforcement community.
This is a significant step by the legislature, and the governor. It moves the legalization of marijuana forward, while proceeding cautiously and thoughtfully toward a regulated system that generates tax revenue for the state. With Maine, Massachusetts and Canada already offering a commercially viable way to purchase marijuana legally, Vermont will be able to reap some of the finanicial benefits of legalizing marijana while also being an active participant in curbing any negative consequences. That’s just common sense. Better to be an active player than to grouse about the negative consequences happening all around us without any upside.
More importantly, there is every reason to believe that legalizing marijuana — just like legalizing alcohol after the days of Prohibition — will improve the status quo, rather than to continue to fight what has been a losing battle to the black market and the insidious social ills that creates.
Angelo Lynn
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