Vermont could become the first state in the nation to end marijuana prohibition by way of the state Legislature, giving way to a unique recreational cannabis market that not only allows the existence of retail sales but also creates a system that welcomes on-site cannabis consumption in a number of pot lounges throughout the state.
After spending the entire summer hashing out the details of a proposal aimed at breathing new life into the state’s nickname The Green Mountain, Senator Jeanette White, who chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee, recently announced that her team finally completed a draft of a bill (Senate Bill 241) that she believes has the potential to bring legal weed to the state in 2016.
The 41-page document suggests the creation of a legal framework that would give residents 21 and over the ability to begin home cultivation in July 2016, while setting the state up to begin recreational sales a year later.
Essentially, the proposal mimics the controls of the state’s Liquor Control Board, which would allow weed to be sold throughout the state in a manner similar to beer under the supervision of a new agency, the Cannabis Control Board. This agency would be responsible for establishing regulations for six kinds of cannabis operations, including “cannabis cultivator; cannabis transporter; cannabis-infused product manufacturer; cannabis testing laboratory; cannabis retailer; and cannabis lounge.”
The bill might be considered by some as restrictive in the way that it only allows for the sale of raw cannabis and topicals, while banning the sale of marijuana edibles. Yet, the language of the measure goes beyond the threshold of others introduced across the country by allowing pot consumption to take place in cannabis cafes — even though all other public consumption would still be prohibited.
Senator White told lawmakers several weeks ago, during an announcement of the bill’s pre-filed status, that it was necessary to include the presence of cannabis lounges so the state’s tourists have a designated location to consume legal marijuana. Otherwise, she said skiers and other pot-loving travelers might be forced to engage in unlawful activity.
According to the bill, the state would license a maximum of 84 retail stores, which would be permitted to sell up to an ounce of weed to residents and no more than a quarter ounce to those from out-of-state. It would also allow for 42 cannabis lounges, which could provide customers with up to a quarter ounce at a time.
As far as home cultivation, residents would be permitted to grow an outdoor cannabis garden of up to 100 square-foot. Any additional marijuana would need to be grown in a secure indoor facility. The overall possession limit would be no more than an ounce of marijuana.
Although the bill is on its way to be heard during the upcoming legislative session, it did not manage to gain consensus before being put on the table. This alone could be enough to prevent the measure from receiving a fair shot when lawmakers get back to work later this month. In fact, Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, who does not support legalization, says that while he is willing to give some floor time to the issue of legal weed, he doesn’t want marijuana to be a “controlling issue.”
Unfortunately, even if the Senate and the House swiftly pass the bill, it could still manage to get jammed up by Governor Peter Shumlin. Although the Governor has said in the past that he supports the concept of legal weed, he recently told WPTZ-TV that he is “still struggling” over whether to support a bill to legalize weed in 2016.
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