On Thursday, the House of Representatives in Vermont approved a bill legalizing retail sales of marijuana. However, the Governor, Phil Scott (R), said that he is not happy with one of the key components of the legislation.
On Wednesday, the measure garnered a strong initial vote in the House, but for the bill to formally clear the chamber, an additional vote was required, and the Members of the chamber gave a third reading approval to the legislation through a voice vote.
The approval of the measure in the Chamber was preceded by the action of the following committees; the House Government Operations, Ways and Means, and Appropriations committees where they amended and cleared the bill in the past few weeks.
In 2018, Vermont legalized the cultivation and possession of marijuana for personal use; however, the state has no legal means of purchasing/selling weed. The current legislation would resolve the purchasing challenge by establishing a commercial marijuana market. Through the bill, the state would also create several business permits and set tax rates to be imposed on legal marijuana sales.
In 2019, during the first half of the two-year legislative session, the Senate approved S. 54 in a vote of 23 to 5, and now the House and the Senate are expected to appoint a bicameral conference committee to resolve the differences between the two versions of the legislation.
Before the House made the final vote on Thursday, it took up the following amendments:
- In a voice vote, the lawmakers adopted a proposal prohibiting the advertisement of marijuana businesses but excluded labels on products, or educational and editorial materials.
- They also approved a proposal clarifying marijuana product tests would be paid for by the Department of Public Safety using the Business licensing fees instead of funds from its regulatory budget, in a voice vote.
In a vote of 48-93, the chamber rejected an amendment to expand public disclosure requirements for marijuana business applicants and their investors.
In a voice vote of 27-117, the chamber also rejected an amendment stating that law enforcement should administer saliva and breathalyzer tests in private to individuals suspected of driving under the influence. As per the bill, the samples would not be taken at the roadside, would not be used as evidence in court proceedings, and could not be used as a probable cause for arrest.
Vermont’s Governor has been pushing for law enforcement to be allowed to conduct such tests without a hassle. Scott said that impaired driving is one of the main reasons why he is opposed to commercial legalization of marijuana.
There is uncertainty on the governor’s action once the bill gets to his desk. After the House voted on Thursday, the governor said that he is not happy about the stipulation that the police must first obtain a warrant before conducting the saliva test.
Scott said that marijuana testing should be treated the same as alcohol because police officers do not need to obtain a warrant to administer alcohol impairment testing.
Top lawmakers in Vermont and administration officials said that the governor is involved in discussions about the latest marijuana reform as he is open to using tax proceeds from pot to fund an after-school program he is advocating for. On Wednesday, the chamber approved an amendment to provide funding for such initiatives.
A poll conducted by the Marijuana Policy Project found that out of four residents of Vermont, three were in favor of allowing adults to purchase cannabis.
It remains to be seen what marijuana companies like Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) suggest as the best way to harmonize the position of the lawmakers and the governor so that the people of Vermont can have a chance to buy the marijuana products they may need.
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