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As Sessions Moves Against State-Legal Weed, Vermont Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Bill

Vermont is close to becoming the first state in the country to legalize marijuana via legislation instead of relying on a referendum.

Pew Research Center, 1/5/2018Pew Research Center, 1/5/2018Just hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled a shift in how the federal government would view state-level laws legalizing the production, sale, and possession of marijuana, Vermont took a step toward becoming the ninth state to legalize weed for recreational purposes.

The Vermont House voted 83–61 last night to approve a bill legalizing the possession of marijuana, sending the measure to the state Senate where, according to local media reports, it is expected to pass.

The bill does not legalize buying and selling pot. A previous effort that would have created a market for recreational marijuana was vetoed last year by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. The bill approved Thursday is supposed to be a compromise with the governor's office, according to the Burlington Free Press, but Scott has not yet indicated whether he will sign the bill.

In the meantime, neighboring New Hampshire could move a marijuana legalization bill this month.

Coming as it did in the hours after Sessions announced plans to rescind the Cole Memo—the Obama-era guidance that essentially told federal prosecutors to leave marijuana businesses alone in states that had voted to legalize—it's easy to interpret the Vermont vote as an immediate flexing of federalism. But in reality, the Vermont bill has been subject to months of negotiations in Montpelier and the timing is coincidental. Indeed, some lawmakers suggested postponing yesterday's vote in light of the developments in Washington, the Free Press reports.

Still, Vermont's movement on marijuana is potentially important for two major reasons.

First, legalizing via legislation is an important shift in how states handle marijuana policy. Just as politics are downstream from culture, legislatures are downstream from voters' desires. Data from the Pew Research Center show that 61 percent of Americans now favor legal recreational marijuana, up from just 33 percent at the turn of the century. Even as those numbers have steadily ticked upwards, and even as voters have repeatedly demonstrated their preference for legal weed via referendum, state lawmakers have been unwilling to put their names on the line and vote for marijuana legalization. This week's developments in Montpelier suggest that voters' preferences and public opinion about marijuana are finally filtering down to statehouses.

Secondly, the bill's success even in the wake of Sessions' announcement could signal a backlash against the Trump administration that—counterintuitively—might boost the chances of legalization in other places. Tom Angell, editor of the online trade publication Marijuana Moment, points out that opposition to Sessions' move has come from all sides of the political spectrum. "Democratic and Republican House and Senate members who almost never talk about marijuana, except when asked about it, proactively released statements pushing back against Sessions," Angell writes. By trying to launch a crackdown, Sessions might finally force a resolution to the murky gray area between state and federal marijuana laws.

Legislators as geographically and ideologically diverse as Rep. Rob Blum (R-Iowa) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reacted to Sessions' announcement by calling for the feds to leave state-legal weed alone. And Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) announced he would delay nominations for Justice Department officials until Sessions offered a better explanation about what the policy shift will mean for states that have already legalized weed.

In many ways, the GOP backlash is more important than the actions of blue-staters like Pelosi or the Democrat-controlled Vermont legislature. For one, it's a signal that even some Republicans believe Sessions has stepped out of line. More importantly, Republicans control the vast majority of state legislatures and governorships at the moment. If there's going to be a real policy backlash against Sessions, it will have to come from Republicans—including Vermont's Gov. Scott.

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  • gaoxiaen||

    Fuck Sessions with a rusty chainsaw.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Now now... Republican Saint Randal Paul voted to confirm the runt as A.G., so that makes Beauregard "libertarian" according to the antichoice sockpuppets that hang out here. Even Al Franken had the guts to vote against handing the moral midget a loaded gun pointed at everyone.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Things are a little more nuanced than that. Paul expressed a lot of misgivings about Sessions, then held his nose and voted for him when it seemed like Sessions had made promises not to act on his most authoritarian beliefs.

    You can label Rand Paul as naive or overly-trusting, but you can't call him an unquestioning supporter of Sessions.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Is Sessions as little as he looks?

  • Zeb||

    Even littler. He actually is a Kiebler elf.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Can he wiggle those ears? And if so, how much? Because I think it's possible he could fly.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    A previous effort that would have created a market for recreational marijuana was vetoed last year by Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

    Because, philosophically, he knew one cannot create what already exists.

  • Rhywun||

    Secondly, the bill's success even in the wake of Sessions' announcement could signal a backlash against the Trump administration that—counterintuitively—might boost the chances of legalization in other places.

    Imagine everything we could accomplish if we could only get Sessions to advocate its opposite!

  • Libertarian||

    Off topic pet peeve time!

    From the NY Times: "Sales of electric and hybrid cars in Norway outpaced those running on fossil fuels last year, . . ."

    No, no, NO! Hybrids run on gas. That is the only goddam fuel they use. Hybrids do not run on alternative fuels!!

  • ||

    Electric cars don't, either - they run on whatever your local power company is using. I don't know, but I'm guessing solar panels aren't big winners in the Norwegian winter. In fact, given that Norway is a major oil supplier, I'm gonna speculate that there may be some fossil fuel burning involved in running those electric cars, but I could be wrong.

  • Zeb||

    Peat.

  • Mickey Rat||

    ...is undercooked coal.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Nice!

  • Mickey Rat||

    It sometimes amuses me how many people talk about electric cars as if electricity was a source of energy rather than a way to convert energy obtained from any number of sources to a form that is easier to transmit.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The definition of energy and the dimensions of its units are a matter of opinion to the intelligentzia and literati. They'll know it when they feel it.

  • Zeb||

    Well, you could run a hybrid on biodiesel or alcohol, which aren't fossil fuels.

    But that is pretty dumb from the NYT. Especially about hybrids which use the same fuel as any other ICE car.

  • Mickey Rat||

    That is about the shallow, sophomoric, know enough to get it completely wrong understanding of technology I have come to expect from the journalism profession.

  • Tony||

    Nobody is confused by the meaning of that sentence.

  • ||

    I found it perfectly clear, myself.

  • ||

    Well, you could run a hybrid on biodiesel or alcohol, which aren't fossil fuels.

    True, but if your concern is CO2 emissions, biodiesel and alcohol are no better than fossil fuels.

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    Re: Libertarian,

    "Sales of electric and hybrid cars in Norway outpaced those running on fossil fuels last year


    On topic with the off-topic,

    There are in Amsterdam as many as 847,000 bicycles for a population of 850,000. This means almost every man, woman and child has one instrument that allows each to be a sanctimonious asshole that feels entitled to the whole road while motorists have to crawl behind every one of them.

    http://amsterdamfaq.com/1/amsterdam

  • ||

    I have been to Amsterdam and can attest to the truth of this.

    The city is also full to the brim with dog shit, for some reason, even though many Dutch still actively sweep their stoops every morning.

    Odd place.

  • Hank Phillips||

    I ride a bike insured by Smith & Wesson.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I think it should be mandatory that bikes come with a nice big rear bumper so that they don't damage my grill when I decide to give them an assist if they can't keep up with the flow of traffic.

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    As Sessions Moves Against State-Legal Weed, Vermont Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Bill


    How dare they defy the administration that will liberate us from Mexican anal sex?

    Tom Angell, editor of the online trade publication Marijuana Moment, points out that opposition to Sessions' move has come from all sides of the political spectrum.


    "The Deep State is also the Pot State! This is treason!

    Quick, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

    Really, Trumpista libertarians should drop their support for the p...y-grabber-in-chief and his Keebler Elf.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Keebler Elf? In the Mongoloid midget's dreams!

  • DRM||

    I'm just waiting for the wave of outrage over the fact that the Feds enforce Federal minimum-wage laws in states that have legalized lower wages.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Did Eric really say the relegalization bill had been vetoed by Republican Governor Phil Scott? Republican as in God's Own Prohibitionists? Something tells me next election there will be red blood running in the streets of Vermont just as there was after George Waffen Bush killed the economy with Daddy's faith-based death-to-dopers asset forfeiture policies (67% of the vote). Scratch that. That fantasizing was contingent on the Dems having sense enough to copy the LP relegalization plank the way they copied the repeal plank off them anti-communist LIBERALS in 1932. What was I thinking?

  • Robert||

    legislatures are downstream from voters' desires


    Not always. Sometimes they're upstream. It all depends on the calcul'n of votes gained vs. lost. It doesn't matter what the majority of voters favor, it matters which people will change their vote for a politician based on the issue. Hardly any pro-pot voters would change their vote on a politician based on hir position on pot, but a slightly larger # of anti-pot voters would. It's because of other issues, largely, & the way people are organized politically. Years ago I asked in a drug reform online forum whether posters would vote for such-&-such pol if he came out for legal pot, & they unanimously said no; the other complex of issues most drug reformers are for just overrode pot when the complex of issues the pol was already about. Drug reformers are mostly of the "left", so the lefty pol's got their vote regardless; even in primaries, other issues are mostly more important to them.

  • damikesc||

    Secondly, the bill's success even in the wake of Sessions' announcement could signal a backlash against the Trump administration that—counterintuitively—might boost the chances of legalization in other places. Tom Angell, editor of the online trade publication Marijuana Moment, points out that opposition to Sessions' move has come from all sides of the political spectrum. "Democratic and Republican House and Senate members who almost never talk about marijuana, except when asked about it, proactively released statements pushing back against Sessions," Angell writes. By trying to launch a crackdown, Sessions might finally force a resolution to the murky gray area between state and federal marijuana laws.

    Legislators as geographically and ideologically diverse as Rep. Rob Blum (R-Iowa) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reacted to Sessions' announcement by calling for the feds to leave state-legal weed alone. And Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) announced he would delay nominations for Justice Department officials until Sessions offered a better explanation about what the policy shift will mean for states that have already legalized weed.

    Ironically, all of the critics named actually have the power to, you know, CHANGE FEDERAL POLICY.

    Sessions is not able to actually change federal policy.

    Wouldn't it make more sense for Pelosi, Gardner, et al to simply PASS LEGISLATION TO CHANGE THE FUCKING POLICY?

  • Thomas O.||

    You seriously think no one in Congress has tried yet?

    Your anger shouldn't be focused on Congress as a whole, but the drugwarboner lawmakers in the committees that keep their asses warm with the pro-pot legislation.

    Don't get mad at Jeff Sessions; get mad at PETE Sessions, who shot down all those pro-pot amendments to bills last year.

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