What to Know on Marijuana Legalization

marijuanaVERMONT- An act on the regulation of marijuana has been heard by the Vermont House Committee on Judiciary. Between Wednesday and Thursday, the Committee listened testimony on Bill S.241, which would legalize limited amounts of cannabis for those 21 or older.

The introduction of the bill, given by Senators Jeanette White of Windham District and Joe Benning of Caledonia District, laid out the various terms of H.241 and what would come from it’s passing.

In addition to one ounce of marijuana being permitted for those older than 21, penalties would be provided to anyone under 21 for possessing, attempting to obtain, or selling marijuana. Furthermore, a Cannabis Control Board would be established within the Department of Public Safety, which would be responsible for rule making and enforcement of registered commercial cannabis establishments. These establishments would be in the six following categories: cultivators, transporters, retailers, manufacturers of infused products, testing laboratories, and lounges.

A fund would also be established that would consist of all monies collected by the state from these establishments, which would go toward youth access prevention and education for marijuana.

The act was initially read by the Senate on January 5 of this year, and was passed by the end of February. It’s first reading to the House took place on March 8.

Currently, marijuana is decriminalized in Vermont. This means that people with less than one ounce will not be arrested, but instead receive fines that do not appear on a person’s criminal record. The fines are no more than $200 for first-time offenders, $300 for a second offense, and $500 for every subsequent offense.

According to a 2014 study by RAND Corporation, marijuana is used commonly in Vermont, with around 80,000 residents having used it in the last month of the study. The study also showed that Vermont could generate between $20 and $75 million from the regulation and taxation of marijuana.

The issue of marijuana regulation has been heavily debated back in forth in Vermont for over 75 years. Mandatory minimum sentences were first introduced for possession in the 1940’s and 50’s. These were then dropped in the 60’s and 70’s, implemented again in the 80’s and 90’s, and finally dropped at the turn of the century. In 2004, Vermont, along with many other states, legalized medical marijuana.

The effective dates for the bill vary from taking effect on passage to July of 2017. A revised version of the bill that was passed by the Senate can be read here.