Marijuana

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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

 

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

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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Senate pot vote came down to the wire

MONTPELIER — An unknown outcome is a rare occurrence when debate begins in the Vermont Senate, but it remained unclear Wednesday afternoon as senators took to the floor to consider legalizing marijuana if they would, in fact, vote to advance it. “I honestly don’t know,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears said ahead of the vote. “We’ve got a few squishy people.”

In the end, 16 senators prevailed over 13 members who opposed legalization. The preliminary vote Wednesday to advance the legislation to a final vote came after a flurry of activity in the State House by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin and others who were trying to win every potential vote. Shumlin hunkered down in his ceremonial office Wednesday morning just down the hallway from the Senate Chamber. Continue Reading →

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Senate gives preliminary approval to marijuana legalization

MONTPELIER — The question of allowing anyone to grow marijuana dominated a discussion Wednesday in which the Senate gave preliminary approval to legalization. By a vote of 16 to 13, Senate lawmakers gave the initial go-ahead to a bill that would allow for commercial cultivation and the sale of marijuana, setting the possibility for full Senate approval Thursday. On the floor, the bill had the support of someone who, months ago, would have seemed an unlikely legalization advocate: Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “If you had told me, even three months ago, that not only would I be voting yes, but speaking on the floor to defend the bill, I would have told you you were crazy,” said Sears, who said he was persuaded to support legalization following nearly a month of testimony and a series of public forums held around the state. Under the terms of the bill, starting in January 2018, it will be legal to grow and sell marijuana, provided you are licensed by the Department of Public Safety. Continue Reading →

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Marijuana bill limps out of committee

MONTPELIER — The Senate’s marijuana legalization bill limped out of its final committee and will come up for a full vote this week. By a 4 to 3 vote Monday afternoon, The Senate Appropriations Committee gave its approval to S.241, which would permit the legal sale of marijuana in 2018. Vermont is looking at becoming the fifth state to legalize marijuana — following Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — and would be the first state to do so through the legislative process rather than though a ballot initiative. To even get out of the committee — the third Senate Committee to review the bill since the start of the legislative session — required the affirmative vote of a Senator who said she will oppose the bill when it comes to the floor Wednesday. “I will vote yes to bring it to the floor, with a clear vote of no on the floor,” said Sen. Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden. Continue Reading →

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VPR Poll: Phil Scott is in the driver’s seat

MONTPELIER — A new Castleton Polling Institute poll commissioned by Vermont Public Radio has provided disheartening numbers for the two Democratic candidates in the gubernatorial race, while Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is soaring. The Vermont primary to select major party gubernatorial candidates will not be held until Aug. 9, but the poll results released Monday show that the two declared Democratic candidates — former Agency of Transportation Secretary Sue Minter and Matt Dunne, a former Windsor county state senator — are at a significant disadvantage in the early going in their quest to succeed Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. Among the 895 Vermonters polled, Minter was selected by just 11 percent as their preferred Democratic candidate. Dunne, meanwhile, was the choice of 19 percent. Continue Reading →

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