Health Care

Vermont pot proponent still hopes for legalization next year

Vermont pot proponent still hopes for legalization next year”

While voters initially approved a 12 percent tax rate on recreational sales of cannabis, the House bill raises that tax to 28 percent. It also would establish standards for the testing, packaging and labeling of marijuana products, including edible ones, to assure those products are safe.

Democratic state Sen. Dick Sears, who helped negotiate the Senate version, said he's still hopeful legalization can be passed in time for it to be implemented on July 1, 2018, the same date in the Senate bill, but expressed concern that delays could make that more hard. As the bill now stands, adults in Vermont 21 years and older would be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to two mature and four immature plants in their home.

Even if the final version of the bill allows municipalities to sanction public pot smoking, there is little evidence local officials would actually pass ordinances to allow for that.

"What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular", said Cusack, a Braintree Democrat. On tax rates, he predicted the legislators would settle in the middle, or somewhere between 12 and 28 percent.

"Now that Gov. Scott has agreed with the House and Senate that marijuana should be legal for adult use, House Republicans should follow the governor's lead and vote to advance this compromise".

"The message it sends is, 'The will of the people be damned,"' said Will Luzier, who headed the November ballot question campaign.

The Senate's bill was favored by the marijuana activists who wrote the 2016 ballot law and fought for its passage.

House leaders maneuvered behind the scenes during the day to avoid a contentious debate and win over wavering members.

Residents are calling on lawmakers to addresses racial disparities in the marijuana industry. "Failing to waive the rules will only mean the marijuana regulatory commission has less time to do its important work".

Another amendment boosted from $30 million to $50 million the amount of marijuana tax revenues that would be directed toward substance abuse treatment programs. Keeping taxes relatively low, Jehlen said, would entice consumers to buy cannabis from legal suppliers, while a higher tax might persuade them to continue purchasing from an illegal dealer or perhaps even drive to ME, where recreational marijuana will be taxed at 10 percent.

Those advocating a lower tax say it would encourage consumers to buy the drug legally and hasten the demise of the underground market. "Just legalizing doesn't move that bar very far", Sears said.

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