Vermonters got a first glimpse at what a retail marijuana system could look like in the state, at least under one bill that’s expected to be taken up by the Senate in the near future.
On Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee released an outline of the draft tax-and-regulate legislation, which would allow for the cultivation and commercial sale of cannabis for adults 21 and older. According to a separate timeline proposed by the panel, the law would take effect on July 1, with licenses for retailers and marijuana cafes set to be issued by April 1, 2021.
Currently, Vermont allows for the possession, personal use and home cultivation of small amounts of marijuana, but buying or selling it is prohibited.
The bill would shift regulatory responsibilities for both medical and adult-use marijuana programs from the state Department of Public Health to an independent Cannabis Control Board. The commission would be responsible for issuing six types of licenses: cultivator, product manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, cafe and testing laboratory.
There would be a 10 percent excise tax and a one percent local tax on marijuana products in jurisdictions that allow retail sales. While cannabis cafes would be permitted, the outline does not mention delivery services, according to the summary. The full legislative text of the bill has not yet been released.
“I’m pleased to see forward progress continuing in the Senate,” Dave Silberman, an attorney and pro bono drug policy reform advocate, told Marijuana Moment. “The ideas outlined in these documents are sound, and I’m eager to see more details.”
“Vermont’s medical marijuana community in particular would be pleased to see oversight for that program shifted away from the Department of Public Safety to a new independent Cannabis Control Commission,” he said.
Details are pretty scant at this point, and the legislative process is just starting. But I think Vermont’s #mmj community will be thrilled to see oversight of the program taken away from the Department of Public Safety.
— Dave Silberman (@DaveSilberman) January 11, 2019
Senate President Tim Ashe (D) recently said that his chamber would streamline the process to get a legalization bill passed and sent to the House. He argued the state is “losing out on the ancillary benefits that could accrue to a formal, safe, regulated system” and that tax revenue that could help fund social services is going out-of-state to places like Massachusetts where residents can actually purchase marijuana.
“And so my hope is that the committees will do their due diligence but move quickly and send a bill to the House,” Ashe told Vermont Public Radio.
But House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D) is less enthusiastic about the prospect. She said she’s “really torn on it” and would like to review how the state’s non-commercial legalization system has impacted things like usage and traffic safety before moving toward a retail model.
With the Democratic gains in the state House during November’s midterm election, however, the legislation’s chances of passage are improved.
If both chambers do ultimately approve the legislation, it remains to be seen whether Gov. Phil Scott (R), who signed the state’s non-commercial legalization bill into law last year, will give it his signature. The governor has reservations about a retail cannabis market and indicated that he wouldn’t sign such a bill until there was a roadside impairment test to detect drugged driving.