Jeff Sessions’ announcement today that he is rescinding the policy on not prosecuting federal marijuana laws in states where cannabis has been decriminalized may have been just the push that the Vermont state House of Representatives needed as the impetus to pass a bill legalizing recreational marijuana in the state.
The Vermont House passed the legislation by a vote of 81-63 just a few hours after Sessions made his retrogressive prohibitionary announcement. The bill would legalize the growing and possession of up to one ounce of cannabis beginning in July for all adults over 21 years-old.
The bill still needs to pass the Vermont state Senate as well be signed by Governor Phil Scott, but the Governor has indicated that he will sign this bill after changes in provisions that caused him to veto a similar measure last year were made to it before its passage, according to an article in the Burlington Free-Press.
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The members of the Vermont House beat back Republican-sponsored amendments and resolutions to pass the legislation including an effort to delay the consideration of the bill in light of Attorney General Sessions’ announcement today. Democrat’s in the Vermont House characterized the bill’s passage as a victory:
“This is a thoughtful, incremental approach to marijuana legalization,” House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, said in a statement after the bill passed Thursday evening. “We’re proud to be the first state in the nation to pass marijuana legalization without the pressure of a public referendum.”
Marijuana advocates in Vermont were over the moon with the results of the vote as well. The New England policy director for the largest cannabis policy reform group in the US, The Marijuana Policy Project’s Matt Simon said:
“Vermont is poised to make history by becoming the first state to legalize marijuana cultivation and possession legislatively, rather than by ballot initiative. We applaud lawmakers for heeding the calls of their constituents and taking this important step toward treating marijuana more like alcohol.”
Once the bill is passed and signed Vermont will be the ninth state to approve legal recreational cannabis and begin down the path of ceasing to fill their prisons with harmless pot-smokers.
With over half a million people arrested for marijuana offenses each year, the illegal status of the drug in the other 41 states continues to contribute to the country’s world-record in the number of its population under incarceration.