Law makers in Vermont have given preliminary approval to a measure that would make it legal for an adult to possess up to an ounce of cannabis in the state.
The bill, S.41, was passed on Wednesday, by a vote of 16-13. A final vote on the measure should take place on Thursday.
“Vermonters have been yearning for leadership on this issue, and the Senate is really stepping up and demonstrating it,” said Matt Simon, the Montpelier-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The senators did not arrive at this vote lightly. They engaged in an exceptionally deliberative process, and like most of their constituents, they have arrived at the conclusion that it’s time to end prohibition and regulate marijuana.”
On Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill with a vote of 4-3. The bill had been previously approved by the Judiciary and Finance committees.
In a statement issued after the vote, Governor Peter Shumlin called it, “a big moment for Vermont.” By creating a legal market, Shumlin hopes to keep cannabis out of the hands of minors, and use the tax revenue to boost drug prevention programs.
Shumlin estimates that over 80,000 of his constituents have used cannabis in the past year. “That’s why I will work with you to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably,” he said.
If the bill is ultimately approved, rulemaking would not begin until the summer, and the new law would not take effect until January 2018.