Editors Note : Ignore the date in the first part of the video above mentioning Thursday, the action is Wednesday, February 26. Apologies for the confusion!
Today, the 150-member Vermont House of Representatives will vote on S.54, a bill that will start the process of taxing and regulating THC cannabis in Vermont for 21+ adults by creating and funding a three-person cannabis control commission, instructing it to propose licenses and fee structures, and setting tax rates and dictating how those funds will be spent.
Following a triumphant win by the Vermont Democrats and Progressives yesterday in overriding Governor Phil Scott’s veto of a $12.55/hour minimum wage by a 100-49 vote, the House of Representatives are expected to clear the 75 “Yea” vote minimum needed to pass the bill with a majority of the 95 Democrats, seven Progressives, five Independents, and a few of the 43 Republicans expected to support the bill.
If passed, the bill would go to a Committee of Conference which would be appointed House and Senate members who would be charged with reconciling the vast differences between the Senate-passed version in 2019, and the would-be House counterpart. The Senate version was mostly mum on funding details, leaving the mathematical lifting to the House, who countered by adding their own licensing scheme, zoning restrictions, and changed the taxation structure to include the state 6% sales tax and remove a 2% local option tax.
A notable last-minute amendment that will be proposed by Representative John Gannon (D-Wilmington) would increase the size of the “small cultivator” license from 500ft^2 to 1000ft^2, following complaints from cultivators and advocates that the 500ft threshold was too small.
However, there is still strong opposition to the bill from various factions of pro-cannabis advocates who take issue with preferences for medical cannabis dispensaries, zoning restrictions, prohibited products, advertising restrictions, and the structure of the commission itself.
Registered hemp farmers and processors have also organized and engaged representatives about zoning concerns and received over 100 signatures on a signed petition that voiced S.54 concerns. That group’s efforts were bolstered by Rural Vermont, one of the state’s largest agricultural organizations, who issued an action alert urging representatives to vote NO on the bill.
Advocates for the bill point to the Conference Committee with the Senate as another opportunity for adjustments to be made, and also note that the Legislature would still have to approve the initial commission recommendations before implemented. Those advocates efforts were bolstered by a recent Marijuana Policy Project-funded poll that showed that 76% of Vermont residents are in favor of allowing adults to purchase marijuana “from regulated, taxpaying small businesses.”
ULTIMATELY, GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT MAY STILL PRESENT THE STRONGEST CHALLENGE TO ENACTING A TAX-AND-REGULATE CANNABIS BILL IN 2020, AS HE HAS VOICED CONCERNS ABOUT ROAD SAFETY AND HIS SUPPORT FOR A SALIVA TEST.
Those concerns appeared to have been addressed with this bill, which allows for a saliva test with a warrant — similar to a blood test. However, that assumption was challenged earlier this month, when the Governor told WCAX’s Calvin Cutler that he will only support this bill if the saliva test is a roadside test. Since that time, the House Appropriations Committee has allocated funds to an after-school initiative proposed by Governor Scott, as well as met his funding demands for prevention efforts, allocating 30% of all cannabis retail excise taxes into a misuse and prevention fund.
The House of Representatives will take the floor at 1pm EST time, and will be broadcast on Vermont Public Radio House of Representative Livestream and the Vermontijuana Facebook Page.
Join host Eli Harrington every two weeks for a comprehensive update on Vermont cannabis politics, including legislation for tax-and-regulate THC cannabis, medical marijuana, and Vermont hemp cbd updates. Video by CannaPlanners
Episode #3 covers the second half of February 2020, which featured:
+ The passage of S.54 from Appropriations Committee by a 6-5 vote, and advancement to the House Floor, for a vote — and likely passage — this week;
+ Opposition to S.54 by Rural Vermont related to concerns about zoning, market access equity, and social justice