In a long-awaited move, the Vermont Legislature agreed to fully legalize marijuana, becoming the 11th state to do so. The personal possession (up to one ounce) and cultivation of marijuana were legalized in Vermont in 2018, but retail sales were still illegal. The state Legislature remedied that by finally agreeing on S. 54, a bill that will finalize the legalization process in Vermont.
Recreational sales in Vermont are not expected to begin until October 2022.
“I am really pleased that after having introduced some of the first cannabis legalization bills over 20 years ago, we are finally achieving a tax and regulate system with some of the strictest controls on corporate ownership and added protections and resources for youth prevention,” said Vermont’s Lieutenant-Governor David Zuckerman. “This comprehensive and forward-thinking bill addresses the historical harms of the war on drugs, which disproportionately affects communities of color, including here in Vermont.”
At the same time as S. 54 passed the Vermont Senate, its sister bill, S. 234, was approved as well. “That bill will automatically expunge the criminal records of over 10,000 people convicted of possessing two ounces or less of marijuana. The bill also decriminalizes possession of between one and two ounces of marijuana,” Zuckerman explained.
Governor Phil Scott reserved his veto, but with reservations, saying lawmakers did move forward in a lot of areas that he had concerns about, but the new law still isn’t exactly what he’d like to see and there are some shortcomings.
“There is still more work to be done to ensure the health and safety of our kids and the safety of our roadways—we should heed the public health and safety lessons of tobacco and alcohol,” Scott wrote in a letter to lawmakers announcing his decision. “Further, I believe we are at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history which requires us to address systemic racism in our governmental institutions. We must take additional steps to ensure equity is a foundational principle in a new market.”