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Legislation to Regulate and Tax Marijuana in Vermont Passes Senate With Veto-proof Majority

Legislation to Regulate and Tax Marijuana in Vermont Passes Senate With Veto-proof Majority

A legislative proposal to tax and regulate marijuana for adult use in Vermont third and final reading in the Vermont Senate Friday with a veto-proof majority; the vote was 23 to 5.

The measure now moves to the Vermont House of Representatives for consideration. Passage in the House would send it to Governor Phill Scott for consideration.

Senate Bill 54, sponsored by 15 of the state’s 30 senators, would create a system of regulated marijuana production and sales for adult use in Vermont, reports the Marijuana Policy Project in a press release. Retail sales would be subject to a 10 percent tax, and municipalities could establish a 1 percent local option tax if they host a retailer. Under the proposal, oversight of the medical cannabis program would be shifted from the Department of Safety to a new independent commission beginning January 1, 2021. It would also change the word “marijuana” to “cannabis” throughout state statutes. A detailed summary of S. 54 is available at http://bit.ly/Vermont-S54.

Laws regulating and taxing cannabis for adult use have been enacted in nine states and the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands. Vermont and D.C. are the only two U.S. jurisdictions where cannabis is legal but not regulated for adult use.

“We applaud the Senate for its overwhelming approval of this commonsense legislation”, says Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which is leading a coalition in support of the legislation. “We hope members of the House will agree that regulating and taxing cannabis is in Vermont’s best interest. Most importantly, this legislation will make the state safer by creating a safe and legal market through which adults can access cannabis products. It will also have the added benefit of generating new tax revenue for the state, as well as local governments.”

Scott continues: “Cannabis is legal for adults in Vermont, and it’s time for it to be treated like other products that are legal for adults. That means regulating its production and sale to address public health and safety concerns and keep it out of the hands of minors. While some adults would prefer to grow their own cannabis, many would prefer to access it safely and legally from licensed stores. They should have the choice, and that is what this bill will provide.”

In January the state’s supreme court decided that the smell of burnt marijuana is not enough to justify law enforcement obtaining a warrant to search a vehicle.

In the ruling the court stated that the odor of burnt marijuana emanating from a vehicle is not strong enough evidence or sufficient probable cause to conduct legally search said vehicle.

“The seizure, aimed at immobilizing the plaintiff’s vehicle while the officer sought a search warrant, was essentially based solely on the trooper’s initial detection of the faint odor of burnt marijuana, which did not, in and of itself, create fair probability that marijuana would be found in the vehicle”, states the ruling.

The case, Zullo v. Vermont, effectively overturned a lower court decision.

Marijuana possession officially became legal in Vermont on July 1, 2018.

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