T the House of Vermont on Thursday passed a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, defeating a series of amendments, including one that would have probably cost the governor's support.
The House vote came on the same day that US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a policy that protected states with legalized marijuana from federal action.
Senator Dick Sears, D-Bennington Photo by Anne Galloway / VTDigger
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The bill seems Be well on your way to becoming law Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Party: DEMOCRATIC
Residence: BENNINGTON, VT
See all legislator's information "class =" glossaryLink "> Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said Thursday that he expected the bill to reach the Senate and get approval on Wednesday.
The Senate essentially passed the same legislation in June, and the government has not said it would sign it.
The House of Representatives approved H.511 by a vote of 81 to 63 on Thursday. The possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana and two mature marijuana plants and four immatures by persons 21 years of age or older is legalized.
Judicial Branch President Maxine Grad, Moretown Democrat, called the bill "an important milestone in criminal justice." He added that it eliminates criminal consequences for the "responsible" use of marijuana by adults.
Rep. Brian Savage, Swanton's Republican, spoke in the room shortly after the news of Sessions' action became known. Savage asked to postpone the vote on the measure until January 18, when a commission established by Governor Phil Scott is expected to offer recommendations on the legalization of marijuana.
Savage's suggestion suffered the same fate as other amendments offered throughout the day, as it did not obtain the necessary support to approve.
Rep. Kurt Wright, Republican of Burlington, said he saw no need to rush legislation on the second day of the session. He said there were many more important issues to address, including a projected 9.4 cents increase in the state property tax.
"What is the rush and stampede of doing this?" He asked, adding the message that was sent. Vermonters is: "No matter the 9.4 cents tax increase you're facing, we're going to let you smoke a posh, maybe when you smoke a joint do not feel those 9.4 cents more."
The debate on the floor of the Chamber began around 10 a.m. and it did not end until 6 p.m. There was about a three-hour break to open the door for Scott to deliver his speech on the State of the State.
The discussion was sometimes cheerful or serious, other times touching or irritable. Opponents questioned the effect legalization would have on road safety and said they sent the wrong message to young people in the state about the use of marijuana.
Supporters called it a "cautious" and "conservative" approach to legalization, without actually creating a complete approach to taxation and retail regulation.
"Substance use should be treated as a matter of medical care, not as a crime," said Representative Brian China, P-Burlington, at the conclusion of the debate. "Let this be another step toward the end of the war on drugs."
Thursday's vote capped a rapid two-day pace for legislation at the start of the 2018 legislative session. The House Judiciary Committee on the first day of the session moved forward on the bill, then moved on to act in a series of amendments.
Supporters of the bill appeared steadfast in their effort to ensure that the legislation moves forward without substantial changes that could jeopardize the governor's support.
Scott has said he would sign the bill, after his veto in the last session of a measure that would also have legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana and allowed the cultivation of some plants.
In vetoing that legislation, the governor suggested ways in which it could be changed to obtain its support.
The latest legislation, H.511, was a compromise reached by the heads of the Senate panels and the Judicial Chamber and the Scott administration just before a June veto.
To address some of the concerns raised by the governor, the bill creates criminal penalties for the use of marijuana in a vehicle with children and increases the penalties for providin g marijuana to any person under age.
However, despite having reached a compromise, a movement to take the legislation in the one-day veto session failed to obtain the necessary support.
The effort of the project's supporters to avoid adjusting the legislation and retaining the governor's support resulted in an interesting turn during the afternoon session on Thursday.
It was then that the minority leader of the House Don Turner, R-Milton, who opposed the legalization of marijuana, proposed an amendment that would create a regular tax structure.
Turner said that "the writing was on the wall" and that "the wheels had been greased", clearing the way for the legalization of marijuana. It would be better, he said, to do it through a tax and regulatory structure than through H.511, which he called the "worst possible way" to legalize the boat.
With a tax and regulations, he said: money could be raised to help pay for "prevention, education and counter-campaign programs" as public safety initiatives.
"This amendment is my attempt to improve a bad bill," he said, adding that it was not a political decision. maneuver but an acknowledgment that he lost.
Their measure required that retail marijuana be taxed at 25 percent, with the first legal marijuana sales by authorized retailers on July 1, 2019. In its first year, it estimated that $ 15 million for $ 20 million could be collected through the tax.
In addition, Turner's proposal would have allowed a municipality to prohibit "a marijuana establishment" by a majority vote in an annual or special meeting.
The supporters of H.511 responded that now was not the right time to adopt such a tax and regulation system and that attaching it as an amendment was not the correct method.
"It's something completely different," said the Dip. Chip Conquest, vice president of the House Judiciary Committee, on the Turner amendment.
Rep. Cynthia Browning, R-Arlington, proposed an amendment that would delay the entry into force of the legalization law until a test has been created to determine the deterioration of the driver for marijuana.
She called the bill to Scarlett O 'Hara "we" The method of Browning's amendment failed, with Conquest saying that science was not yet available for such a test.