Vermont Senate Approves Legal Pot as Governor Cheers

Seven states could legalize marijuana for recreational use this year.


Office of the Governor

Last week the Vermont Senate approved a bill that would legalize marijuana for recreational use in that state, authorizing the licensing and regulation of commercial producers and retailers. If the state House of Representatives follows suit, Vermont will be the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislature rather than the voting booth. Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, supports legalization and is expected to sign the bill if it passes the House, where its prospects are uncertain.

Like the legalization initiatives approved by voters in four other states, the Vermont bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 17 to 12, would allow adults 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Unlike most of those initiatives, it would not allow home cultivation. State-licensed growers and merchants could begin operating in 2018. The state would collect a 25 percent excise tax on marijuana, and pot stores would initially be barred from selling edibles. The bill creates a commission to study the possibility of allowing home cultivation and edible sales in the future.

"I want to thank the Senate for their courage in voting to end the failed War on Drugs policy of marijuana prohibition," Shumlin said after the Senate vote. "With over 80,000 Vermonters admitting to using marijuana on a monthly basis, it could not be more clear that the current system is broken. I am proud that the Senate took lessons learned from states that have gone before us, asked the right questions, and passed an incredibly thoughtful, common-sense plan that will bring out of the shadows an activity that one in seven Vermonters engage in on a regular basis. The shadows of prohibition have prevented our state from taking rational steps to address marijuana use in our state. This bill will allow us to address those important issues by driving out illegal drug dealers, doing a better job than we currently do of keeping marijuana out of the hands of underage kids, dealing with the drugged drivers who are already driving on our roads, addressing treatment, and educating Vermonters to the harmful effects of consuming marijuana, alcohol, and cigarettes." 

A recent Vermont Public Radio poll found that 55% of Vermonters support legalization, with just 32% opposed. The Marijuana Policy Project, which welcomed last week's vote, is backing a similar effort in Rhode Island. Unlike the Vermont bill, a Rhode Island bill introduced on February 11 would allow home cultivation and sale of marijuana edibles. Voters in five other states—Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada—are expected to see legalization initiatives on their ballots in November. Activists in at least four states—Florida, Ohio, Idaho, and Arkansas—hope to legalize marijuana for medical use this year.

[This post originally appeared at]

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  1. There’s a party in Vermont and everyone is invited!

    1. You still got snow?

      1. Yeah, but it’s not “legal” yet.

    2. But nobody wants to come, because Vermont.

  2. “Activists in at least four states?Florida, Ohio, Idaho, and Arkansas?hope to legalize marijuana for medical use this year.”

    Also Missouri. I look forward to rubbing some socon noses in that. I almost never catch them peeing on the rug so this is a rare opportunity.

  3. With over 80,000 Vermonters admitting to using marijuana on a monthly basis, it could not be more clear that the current system is broken.

    Or, over 80,000 Vermonters who should be in the hoosegow. How can the DEA stand for this blatant violation of established federal law?

    1. 80 000?

      There are, like, 600 000 Vermonters.

      That’s one state with the munchies.

      1. It is the home of Ben & Jerry’s for a reason…

        1. Ben & Jerry’s sucks. It’s horribly overrated, terrible ice cream.

          1. At least they stay out of politics.

  4. Yeah, well keep in mind the New Jersey governor cheered when they added a Constitutional provision making the state’s obligation to pay into the state’s retirement system a contractual obligation that wouldn’t allow the state to weasel out of their debts any more, and then he cheered when the Supreme Court backed his play to weasel out of that Constitutional obligation. Sometimes governors cheer just because the rest of the crowd is cheering and they don’t want to let on that they’re secretly fans of the other team.

    “The shadows of prohibition have prevented our state from taking rational steps to address marijuana use in our state” doesn’t sound at all like the words of somebody who favors allowing people the freedom to use marijuana, it sounds like the words of somebody who wants the state to control the production and sale of marijuana so they can better stamp out the scourge of marijuana use. Do you seriously think his idea of “taking rational steps to address marijuana use” involves stepping away and keeping his trap shut about how other people ought to live their lives?

    1. “Do you seriously think his idea of “taking rational steps to address marijuana use” involves stepping away and keeping his trap shut about how other people ought to live their lives?”

      Comparatively speaking yes and that is a start. I’m not going to bitch about positive developments because I think the people involved have motivations that aren’t sufficiently perfect.

      1. But our politicians need to be perfect on everything all the time. “Baby steps” is just another word for “BETRAYAL”.

    2. How do you get that from such a neutral word as “address”?

    3. Sometimes governors cheer for the same reason people with Down’s Syndrome cheer. Because they’re retarded and everyone else is doing it.

  5. This really seems to be happening. Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon did it and there were no catastrophes. This shows one of the huge advantages of a federal system.

  6. “Unlike most of those initiatives, it would not allow home cultivation.”


    1. Excise tax.

      1. I assume that if the 25% excise tax keeps the price higher than the existing black market price, they won’t be “driving out” any illegal drug dealers. The sales will still be illegal, but the use will be legal. Oh well, baby steps.

        1. Keep it high enough to keep the black market viable and they can keep the MWRAP, collect fines and still get the excise tax revenue. Sounds like stimulus to me.

        2. Once you have legal pot in general circulation, the rest of the war on pot gets very hard to enforce. A dog hitting on your car, for example, really isn’t probably cause for a search.

          1. Like booze, the convenience of retail availability offsets the 25% tax for the vast majority of people, but the missing aspect in the VT legislation that would further diminish “black market” viability is a “grow your own” option.

        3. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good assumption. Cheap liquor is taxed at an even higher rate than that (though not as a percentage of price) and there aren’t large markets in illegal moonshine in a lot of places.

          1. Not only that, but distilling booze on a residential property is probably not even eligible for license. So pot’s going to be “more legal” than distilled spirits.

        4. Do you seriously think 25% excise + whatever the sales tax is on consumer goods generally would come close to exceeding the prohib’n “tax”? Even if you figure in the licensing oligopoly “tax”?

    2. There actually is a precedent for home growing: home wine / cider / beer making.

  7. Okay, New Hampshire. The ball is in your court. Either legalize it or change your state slogan.

    1. I guess they’re changing their state slogan then. This is one of the few states in the Northeast where the Democratic Governor is worse than their Republican opposition. Hassan is awful, John Lynch was a little better but not by much. Only good thing about her running for the Senate is that we get rid of her as Governor.

      1. Yeah, she’s the worst. I have no idea who is likely to replace her. The NH Republicans have been having a hard time getting together plausible candidates for governor lately for some reason.
        Hopefully having surrounding states legalize will help move things in the right direction.

        1. Hard to imagine NH turning down legal pot for long, since the state liquor stores benefited so long on biz from Mass. & Vt.

    2. Live sober or die?

  8. Cheer this libertarian moment on reason, because its the end of the line. We’ll get legal pot, in exchange for having to have formalized contracts to have sex. Not a good trade IMHO.

    1. If everybody is stoned, getting somebody to sign on the dotted line might be easy! Silver linings…

    2. It wouldn’t be if it were actually a trade. But it isn’t. There is no either/or choice between legal weed and dumb progressive policies (even less silly ones than your example).

      1. To some extent it is, because legislators come in discrete units, & clustered by political party.

  9. Any clues as to the partisan makeup of the Vermont Senate and House? I read fast, but didn’t see it.

    1. I keep hearing that the house is less likely to pass it than the Senate was. But it looks like the house is heavily Democrat too.

  10. I’m making over ?5k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. AT Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. For further details

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  11. Yet they are the leader in fighting for GMO labels. I’ll call this state a wash for now.

  12. Senate: 30 members: 18 Democrats, 3 Progressive, 9 Republican

    House: 150 members: 85 Democrats, 6 Progressive, 53 Republican, 6 Independent

    It’s not clear that the bill will pass the House.

    1. Thank you, Richard.

      So if this fails, it will be because the Dems couldn’t get it through in a state where they control the legislature and the governor.


      1. Oops, a little math:

        Presumably, the Progs will vote to legalize. Let’s assume the independents split 50/50. That gives the Dems plus their allies on this issue 94 out of 150 votes in the House. They could lose 19 Dem votes, or almost a third of their caucus, and still pass it without a single Repub vote.

      2. Dems are beholden to the “public safety” unions. While most Dem politicians probably don’t give two craps whether people smoke the wacky, most voters don’t contribute to their campaigns like the police unions do.

        1. I can’t think of any examples of Republicans criticizing police unions either. Everyone is beholden to “public safety” unions.

          1. Good point.

    2. Who are the biggest impediments to it passing? I don’t spend too much time in Vermont, is this a partisan issue out there?

      1. Initially it’s the House Judiciary and Appropriations committees. The bill has to be approved by them before the full House can vote on it and there’s lots of room for disagreement of the particulars. Then there’s Vermont’s political environment. The Senate is largely controlled by left-leaning Chittenden County and the city of Burlington. The House is more representative of the state which is largely rural, poor, and less lefty. The bill passed the Senate by only 17-12. If the House were to vote on the bill today it’s doubtful it would garner a majority.

  13. I just don’t get why you would do it without a home grow option. I suppose the argument is that people might grow too much and sell it. But that’s ridiculous. Everyone already has as much weed as they want without it being legal at all, so it would make not practical difference even if lots of people do start growing for sale. One of the silliest things about drugwar politics is that the politicians keep pretending that prohibition is actually effective.

    1. I just don’t get why you would do it without a home grow option.

      Can’t tax what people grow.

  14. Someone needs to ask moron Kasich whether he’s glad to see all that mj tax revenue go elsewhere. He was strongly against Ohios mj issue.

  15. As others have said, while this is a positive development, the lack of a home production provision is disturbing from a libertarian perspective.

    In Canada where I live, we can soon expect a regressive, tax-forward regulatory system with any cannabis legalization effort. I’d imagine the odds of home production being allowed at less than 50%.

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