Vermont Senate Votes 21-9 for Marijuana Legalization

The Vermont Senate voted 21-9 on Friday to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, a permissive stance on pot senators acknowledged the House is unlikely to embrace.

“We know that prohibition has not worked,” Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham) said. “Let’s make it safer, less accessible to kids.”

The vote came in response to an amendment White made to another criminal justice bill. The Senate had been awaiting action from the House on legalization, but that chamber had yet to vote as the legislative session nears its early-May adjournment.

Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland) briefly succeeded in derailing White’s amendment when she questioned whether it was sufficiently related — or germane — to the underlying bill. It wasn’t, ruled Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.

But Senate rules allow the chamber to make a non-germane amendment germane, if they can muster a three-fourths’ majority. They did, by a 23-7 vote — exactly enough to meet the threshold.*

White’s amendment is similar to legislation the Senate passed last year which went on to fail in the House. It would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older and allow them to grow up to two plants and four seedlings as of January 2, 2019. Licenses would be available for commercial cultivators, retailers and lab testing of varying sizes.

Sen. Bobby Starr (D-Essex/Orleans) argued against legalization. “Here we are passing another drug so we can spend more money for treatment, for care of young people when they get caught up on drugs,” he said.

He complained that the Senate was wasting its time, knowing the House wouldn’t go along with the bill.

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