The first bill approved by the House when we returned in January was H.511, legalization of recreational marijuana. As I write this, Governor Scott is expected to sign it into law based on a compromise he made last June with backers of legalization. The legislation, which takes effect on July 1, 2018, limits the number of marijuana plants in a dwelling unit to two mature and four immature plants. The bill is essentially a grow your own. It is still illegal to sell marijuana.
I voted against H.511. Vermont’s law enforcement, health care and education community have all raised concerns about the potential impacts of increasing marijuana usage in Vermont. As a legislator I also try to be pragmatic. Given that passage was likely, I offered an amendment to delay the effective date by one year to allow the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission to report its findings and recommendations later this year. By delaying actual implementation I believe the legislature would have time to consider a more regulated approach before legalization takes effect. However, even though my amendment included legalization in 2019, it failed as backers of the bill did not want any further delay.
If we are going down the road of legalization, it is my belief that we should consider doing it in a regulated market perhaps similar what we do for spirits in Vermont, including licensed retail sales and some level of taxation. H.511 does neither.