MONTPELIER, Vt. — The state House of Representatives approved a bill 74-68 on its second reading Tuesday evening that would make personal possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. If the bipartisan measure is approved at a third reading, which is expected later this week, it will advance to the Senate.
H. 170, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), Vice Chair Charles Conquest (D-Wells River), and ranking Republican Rep. Tom Burditt (R-West Rutland), would eliminate Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana, and it would eliminate penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants. Penalties for possession of more than one ounce of marijuana would also be reduced.
The Senate has already agreed with the House that personal possession and cultivation should be legal for adults. On April 21, the Senate voted 21-9 to amend a House-passed bill (H. 167) to include language of a comprehensive legalization and regulation bill. That bill, which passed the Senate, mirrors the personal possession and cultivation provisions of H.170. The original House version would not take effect until January 2019, whereas the Senate-amended bill would take effect on July 1, 2017
“We applaud the House for approving this commonsense legislation and hope their colleagues in the Senate will agree that it’s time to move forward with this important reform,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Most Vermonters support this bill, in part because they know that marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and it’s time to start treating it that way.”
A substantial majority of Vermont voters are in favor of the policy change proposed in H. 170, according to a statewide poll released at the end of March. Fifty-seven percent said they support allowing adults 21 and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana. Only 39% are opposed. The Public Policy Polling survey of 755 Vermont voters was conducted March 20-21 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6%. The results are available at https://www.mpp.org/VTpoll