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Vermont: House Kills Marijuana Legalization Bill

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Vermont House rejected a marijuana legalization proposal Tuesday, killing the hopes of marijuana legalization advocates for reform after promising votes in the Senate earlier this year.

It appeared that Vermont was to become the first state to legalize marijuana through legislation, and not through a ballot vote. New England is considered to be the next frontier for marijuana policy reform, and Vermont would have led the way.

Instead the House voted 121-28 to reject the marijuana legalization bill, which was passed by the state Senate at the urging of Gov. Peter Shumlin in February. The bill would have legalized, regulated, and taxed marijuana for adults 21 and over, but would not have allowed edibles, or home cultivation.

Several members said they supported legalization but not the bill itself, especially the lack of provisions for home cultivation, which one member said was “not the Vermont way.”

Others, like state representative Christopher Pearson, said prohibition had failed, and it was time to move forward.

“Constituents want to know: Why do we sit and enjoy delicious Vermont beer and frown on cannabis use?” he asked.

TheHouse will vote later Tuesday afternoon on a compromise measure that would decriminalize marijuana possession and cultivation of up to two adult plants per household.

Vermont: New TV Ads Say 'Vermont Is Ready' To Regulate Marijuana

New TV ads say "Vermont is Ready" to regulate marijuana

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana began airing a new television ad today, just as members of the Vermont House of Representatives are preparing to vote on a bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over.

The ad is titled "Vermont Is Ready" and is being aired in both thirty-second and 60-second versions. The ads can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/qicp4i.

The ad features a diverse group of Vermonters saying, “It’s time” to end marijuana prohibition and “Vermont is ready” to regulate marijuana for adult use. One woman says, “It’s time for marijuana sales to take place in regulated businesses,” and another says, “It’s time to stop punishing adults for using a less harmful substance than alcohol.” Dr. Joseph McSherry, a Richmond neurologist, says, “It’s time to create rules for testing and labeling marijuana so that consumers can know what they’re getting.”

The ad ends with a young woman urging viewers to contact their state representatives and ask them to support S. 241, which would end prohibition and regulate marijuana in Vermont.

The House Committee on Judiciary is expected to vote on S. 241 as early as Friday. The Senate approved the bill on February 25. Gov. Peter Shumlin, Attorney General William Sorrell, and two former attorneys general have expressed support for the measure.

Vermont: Governor Says Marijuana Legalization Is 'Enlightened' Thing To Do

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Vermont could make history this spring. As Governor Peter Shumlin nears the end of his term in office, he wants the state to become the first in the union to legalize marijuana through its Legislature.

In an interview with Katy Steinmetz of Time Magazine, Gov. Shumlin said "I think the more enlightened states are trying to get ahead of this one" when it comes to cannabis legalization.

"There is no question America is going to move to a more sensible policy, state by state," Shumlin said.

"We’re all spending huge amounts of energy focusing on the evils of pot smoking and we hardly talk about the fact that in 2010, we sold enough drugs legally through our pharmacies in the form of Oxycontin to keep every adult American high for a month," the Governor pointed out. "That has led to death, destruction, addiction to heroin that’s affecting every state in America. And then we flip out about the possibility that we could move to a more sensible approach to marijuana."

"Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has also talked openly about using marijuana," Steinmetz asked Gov. Shumlin. "Have you ever tried it?" "Yes," Shumlin replied. "I was in Vermont in the '70s... We inhaled."

"I'm hoping that Vermont will be the first state that does it legislatively because we have learned from the states that have made mistakes doing it by referendum," Gov. Shumlin said. "We are trying to pass the first cautious, sensible marijuana legalizing bill in the country."

Vermont: Governor Says Marijuana Edibles Make For 'Bad Pot Bill' In Massachusetts

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Governor Peter Shumlin wants to legalize marijuana in Vermont before Massachusetts because he does not want Massachusetts' "bad pot bill" to negatively influence his state.

The governor expressed his views in a blog post entitled The Time is Now to Take a Smarter Approach to Marijuana on his official website.

The bill Shumlin supports would ban edibles, unlike the bill proposed in the Massachusetts ballot initiative, which would permit them for recreational users.

“The bill’s approach is in stark contrast to the one proposed in the Massachusetts referendum that will be voted on in November, which would allow edibles that have caused huge problems in other states, smoking lounges, home delivery service, and possession of up to 10 ounces of marijuana. Vermont’s bill allows none of that,” Shumlin wrote in his post. “If Massachusetts moves forward with their legalization bill while Vermont delays, the entire southern part of our state could end up with all the negatives of a bad pot bill and none of the positives of doing the right thing."

Jim Borghesani, communications director for The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, told the State House News Service: “He seems to focus on edibles as a negative and, unfortunately, I think he’s falling into the same exaggerations when it comes to edibles that a lot of other people have. The problems with edibles in Colorado were pretty much contained to the first year of legal sales. The packaging has been changed, the portioning has been changed. It’s a learning process."

Vermont: Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Legal marijuana was given an initial approval by the Vermont Senate on Wednesday.

After about two hours of debate the approval came on a 16-13 tally of the votes.

Final passage of the bill is expected to be voted on this Thursday by the Senate.

If passed, the measure will allow possession by an adult of up to one ounce, but will not allow edible cannabis products. Licensed growers will able to supply retail cannabis stores, but homegrown cannabis will not be allowed

The no-homegrown provision drew at least one vote against the measure. Senator Rebecca Balint, D-Windham, said she supported legalization in principle. “But I stand here today, reluctantly, to say that I will be voting against this bill … because I believe this bill does not allow room for the homegrown folks in my county and the smaller growers who would like to be part of this new, viable business,” she said.

Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin supports the measure and has pledged to sign off on it. “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,” he said after the vote.

After passage by the Senate, the bill would need House approval and Shumlin's signature to make Vermont the first state to legalize marijuana by state lawmakers, and not through a voter initiative.

Vermont: Marijuana Legalization Faces Full Senate

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont could soon become the first state to legalize marijuana through action by lawmakers rather than through a voter initiative and ballot.

The bill, approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, would end marijuana prohibition and begin taxing and regulating cannabis sales.

The full Senate is expected to vote on the proposal this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday.

House of Representatives Speaker Shap Smith, a supporter of the bill, is confident in expecting Senate passage. He is unsure about what happens when the legislation faces the House of Representatives. “I think that within the next couple of years you’ll see the legalization of marijuana,” Smith said in a recent statement. “Whether it’s this year, I think is an open question.”

In a statement on Facebook Monday, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin expressed his support. The full Facebook statement:

Vermont: Former Attorney General Throws Support Behind Marijuana Legalization

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Former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney, a Republican, will throw his support behind the effort to end marijuana prohibition in 2016 and appear in online ads set to launch Tuesday that highlight the benefits of regulating marijuana.

The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana (VCRM) will hold a news conference Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET in the Cedar Creek Room of the Vermont State House to formally announce Cheney’s endorsement, display one of the ads, and express support for the vision Gov. Peter Shumlin laid out last week during his state of the state address.

On Thursday, Gov. Shumlin said Vermont “[has] the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right” in 2016, and he promised state lawmakers he will work with them to “craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably.”

The coalition’s first ads of the session feature Cheney and highlight the benefits of replacing prohibition with a system in which marijuana is legal for adults and regulated similarly to alcohol. Cheney served as Vermont attorney general from 1973 to 1975. Previously, he served as an assistant attorney general and was elected Washington County states attorney. He has held a variety of other civic positions and is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

Vermont: Governor Calls For Marijuana Legalization In State of the State Address

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Gov. Peter Shumlin Declares Drug War a Failure and Calls for Expanded Overdose Prevention and Treatment Access

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin on Thursday, in his final State of the State address, called on lawmakers to pass legislation legalizing and regulating marijuana.

The Governor also declared the Drug War a failure and expressed desire to continue emphasizing a health-based approach to drug policy by expanding treatment and overdose prevention programs, as well as by removing the stigma associated with drug use and addiction.

"The outdated war on drugs has also failed," said Shumlin, "and there is no greater example than our nation’s marijuana laws."

“Pete Shumlin is providing just the sort of leadership we need to see from other governors around the country,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Indeed, it’s a bit surprising, with a majority of Americans in favor of marijuana legalization, that he’s the only sitting governor to actively call for it. I’m hopeful this is the start of a new trend.”

Gov. Shumlin stressed that a marijuana legalization measure should contain the following:

• A legal market to keep marijuana and other drugs out of the hands of underage kids;
• Tax imposed must be low enough to wipe out the black market and get rid of illegal drug dealers;
• Revenue from legalization must be used to expand addiction prevention programs;
• Strengthened law enforcement capacity to improve our response to impaired drivers

Vermont: New Report Outlines Options Regarding Marijuana Legalization

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Legalizing recreational marijuana production, distribution and possession in Vermont could generate significant tax revenues, but also involves costs and important decisions about how best to regulate the substance, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The report makes clear that if Vermont chooses to remove its prohibition on producing and selling marijuana, lawmakers will have many choices to make about who will supply it, who can buy it, if and how it will be taxed, and how it will be regulated.

The report does not make a recommendation about whether Vermont should change its marijuana laws. Researchers say the goal of the report is to inform, not sway, discussions about the future of marijuana policy in Vermont and other jurisdictions considering alternatives to traditional marijuana prohibition.

The RAND report provides the most-detailed accounting available about the wide number of issues that face state officials -- in Vermont and elsewhere -- when considering alternatives to traditional marijuana prohibition.

“Our conversation about whether to legalize marijuana must be rooted in facts and be transparent about the uncertainties,” said Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin. “This RAND report will serve as a critical foundation for our ongoing discussion about the best course for Vermont.

"I continue to support moves to legalize marijuana in Vermont but have always said that we have to proceed with rigorous research and preparation before deciding whether to act," Shumlin said. "This report will help us do that.”

Vermont: RAND Corporation To Study Issues Around Marijuana Legalization

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Could the Green Mountain State become the Green Marijuana State? Researchers from the RAND Corporation will study the issues related to potentially legalizing the production, distribution and possession of marijuana in Vermont, officials said on Wednesday.

In May 2014, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill that requires the state secretary of administration to report to the General Assembly regarding the taxation and regulation of recreational marijuana in Vermont. A May poll from the Castleton Polling Institute found 57 percent of Vermonters favor cannabis legalization, reports the Marijuana Policy Project.

“We are pleased to help the state of Vermont think through the potential consequences associated with alternative marijuana policies,” said Beau Kilmer, project leader and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

Kilmer met with state Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding and other Vermont officials this week to discuss the study.

The law calls for the report to analyze the possible taxing systems for the sale of marijuana in Vermont, including sales taxes, use taxes and excise taxes, as well as the potential revenue each may raise. In addition, the study will examine any savings or costs to the state that would result from regulating marijuana and the experiences of other states with regulating and taxing marijuana. Issues surrounding public health and public safety also will be addressed.

Vermont: New Poll Shows Strong Majority Support For Marijuana Legalization

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Castleton Polling Institute survey finds 57% support — and only 34% oppose — such a proposal, which will be the subject of a study approved by the Vermont Legislature in April

A strong majority of Vermonters support making marijuana legal for adults, taxing it, and regulating it similarly to alcohol, according to a Castleton Polling Institute survey released on Wednesday.

Such a change in state law would be supported by 57 percent of respondents. Only 34 percent said they are opposed.

“People are fed up with marijuana prohibition,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Marijuana is an objectively less harmful substance than alcohol, and this poll shows most Vermonters want it to be treated that way.”

The Vermont Legislature in April approved a bill that includes an amendment initiating a study to evaluate the potential impact of making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it similarly to alcohol. Gov. Shumlin is expected to sign it into law.

“Just about anyone who reviews the evidence objectively will arrive at the conclusion that prohibition has failed, and it’s time for a more sensible approach,” Simon said. “Regulating marijuana like alcohol would replace the underground market with licensed, tax-paying businesses.

"There is a reason why we don't see copious amounts of alcohol being illegally produced and trafficked around Vermont — because it's regulated,” Simon said.

Vermont To Study Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin's administration is getting ready to study the fiscal and other impacts of marijuana legalization; the task was assigned by the Vermont Legislature.

Gov. Shumlin said he agreed with lawmakers that "it's timely to do a study," said Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding, reports Dave Gram at the Burlington Free Press,/i>. Spaulding's agency is tasked to report its findings to the Legislature by January 15, 2015.

"We're not going to prejudge what our position would be at the end of it," Spaulding said.

An amendment to a bill whose main purpose was removing a cap on the number of patients who can get medical marijuana in Vermont is responsible for the study. It called for a study of "possible taxing systems" for marijuana, any savings or costs connected with legalizing, regulating and taxing it, the experiences of Colorado and Washington in legalizing cannabis.

Spaulding admitted the Shumlin Administration hadn't yet figured out how to do the study, but then it's been less than a week since the Legislature adjourned. "I know that we're going to take it seriously and we'll probably do a pretty thorough study," he said.

Gov. Shumlin has repeatedly said he wants to see what happens in Washington and Colorado before moving ahead with legalization for Vermont. Spaulding cautioned that the January 2015 deadline for the report may be too soon to answer than question.

Vermont: Senate Approves Marijuana Dispensary Improvement Bill; Measure Going To Governor's Desk

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S. 247 will expand access to medical marijuana for qualified patients and initiate a study on the potential impact of making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it similarly to alcohol

The Vermont Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that will expand access to medical marijuana for qualified patients. It will now be sent to Gov. Peter Shumlin, who has expressed support for the measure.

S. 247, sponsored by Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), will eliminate the cap on the number of patients who are allowed to access medical marijuana dispensaries. Currently, only 1,000 total patients in the state are able to access dispensaries.

The measure will also increase possession limits for dispensaries, allow them to deliver medical marijuana to patients, and permit naturopaths to certify patients for the program. The bill was amended by the House to initiate two studies: one to explore the possibility of adding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for the state's medical marijuana program, and one to evaluate the potential impact of making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it similarly to alcohol.

"The House and Senate should be commended for taking action to ensure seriously ill Vermonters have legal access to medical marijuana," said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

Vermont: Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced In Legislature

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Vermont State Senator David Zuckerman has introduced a bill to legalize, tax and regulate the production, sale and recreational use of marijuana in the state.

Zuckerman himself doesn't expect the bill to pass this year, reports Morgan True at VT Digger. "I think this is a building year, more than a likely passage year," he said.

Last year the Vermont Legislature decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis. The bill, which took effect in July, replaced criminal penalties for marijuana possession with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket, for up to one ounce.

While Gov. Peter Shumlin has said marijuana legalization is "not a priority" this year, he is "closely watching" the regulation and taxation of cannabis in Colorado and Washington, according to spokesman Scott Coriell.

Matt Simon with the Marijuana Policy Project said MPP will spend 2014 trying to build a consensus about the path to legalization.

"We want to pass (tax-and-regulate) in 2015, and I don't see any reason why Vermont wouldn't be one of the first states to do this through the Legislature," Simon said.

New Hampshire: Prison Official Says It's Time To Legalize Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Twenty-year law enforcement veteran Richard Van Winkler, superintendent for the Cheshire County Department of Corrections in New Hampshire, on Monday told Vermont Public Radio that decriminalization doesn't go far enough, and the legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana is the way to go.

"If we decriminalize we allow the illegal drug enterprise to flourish," said Van Winkler, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), reports Mitch Wertlieb at VPR. "If we legalize, control, regulate, tax in the same way that we do for alcohol, we put the illegal drug dealer out of business."

Van Winkler stressed that advocating for legalization isn't the same as advocating for cannabis use; he said that it costs about $32,000 to keep each nonviolent drug offender locked up every year, reports David Edwards at The Raw Story.

"The fact is policies like mandatory minimum sentencing, drug war issues have meant that the United States has had to build over 900 jail beds every two weeks for the last 20 years, this while violent crime in our country is at a 30-year low," Van Winkler pointed out.

Noting that two states, Colorado and Washington, had already legalized marijuana. "Guess what? The sky is not falling," he said.

Vermont: Marijuana Decriminalization Takes Effect Monday, July 1

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Criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession will be replaced with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Legislation adopted this year to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession will go into effect on Monday. Vermont is the 17th state in the nation to decriminalize or legalize marijuana possession.

“This is a much-needed step forward toward a more sensible marijuana policy,” said Matt Simon, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbied in support of the legislation. “Nobody should be subjected to life-altering criminal penalties simply for possessing a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.”

H. 200, introduced by Rep. Christopher Pearson (P-Burlington) with a tripartisan group of 38 co-sponsors, removes criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replaces them with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket. Those under age 21 will be required to undergo substance abuse screening. State Attorney General William Sorrell and Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn testified in support of the measure, which was signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin on June 6.

“There is still work to be done and support is growing for more comprehensive marijuana policy reform,” Simon said. “Until marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol, sales will remain uncontrolled and profits will benefit illegal actors instead of legitimate, taxpaying businesses.

Vermont: Governor Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Into Law

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Proposal backed by tripartisan group of legislators and state's top law enforcement officials will replace criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a bill into law Thursday that decriminalizes possession of limited amounts of marijuana in Vermont, making it the 17th state in the nation to decriminalize or legalize marijuana. The signing took place during the governor’s remarks at the Statewide Criminal & Juvenile Justice Training Conference.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell and Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn testified in favor of the bill, which was approved in the Senate (24-6) on May 7 and in the House (98-44) on April 12. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Vermont voters support such a proposal, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in February 2012.

“We applaud Gov. Shumlin, the state’s top law enforcement officials, and the legislature for their leadership and support of this important legislation,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which lobbied in support of the bill. “Decriminalizing marijuana possession will allow law enforcement officials to spend more time and attention addressing serious crimes and prevent people from being branded as criminals just for using a substance that most Americans agree should be legal.

Vermont: Legislature Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Measure

There is a truth that must be heard!Governor Peter Shumlin Expected To Sign Bill Into Law

Proposal backed by tripartisan group of legislators and state's top law enforcement officials will replace criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

State lawmakers gave final approval Monday to a measure that will decriminalize possession of limited amounts of marijuana in Vermont. The bill will now go to Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is expected to sign it into law in coming weeks, at which time Vermont will become the 17th state in the nation to decriminalize or legalize marijuana.

“We applaud the Vermont Legislature for adopting this much-needed legislation and setting an example for other states in the region and around the country,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “The exceptionally broad support demonstrated for this measure reflects the progress our nation is making toward adopting a new and more sensible approach to marijuana policy.

“The days of criminalizing people simply for using a substance less harmful than alcohol are coming to an end,” Simon said.

Vermont: Senate Committee Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

There is a truth that must be heard!Proposal supported by state's top law enforcement officials would replace criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Vermont Senate Committee on Judiciary approved a bill 4-1 on Wednesday that would decriminalize possession of limited amounts of marijuana. It will now be considered by the full Senate. The House of Representatives gave final approval to the bill on April 16.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell and Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn testified in favor of the bill, and Gov. Peter Shumlin has also expressed support for such a proposal.

"Vermont is another step closer to a more sensible marijuana policy, and the change cannot come soon enough,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “People should not be branded as criminals simply for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and there are certainly more serious crimes for law enforcement officials to address.

“I hope the Senate will join their colleagues in the House, the state’s top law enforcement officials, and the people of Vermont in supporting this common sense legislation,” Simon said.

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