Vermont

Vermont: New Bill Proposed To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont saw a complicated bill to legalize recreational marijuana fail last year. A new, simpler bill is proposed that would allow possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, and allow Vermonters to grow several plants at home.

“The more conservative it is, the more appealing it will be to people outside this room,” said Republican Rep. Tom Burditt, one of the bill’s sponsors at the House Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday. Burditt voted against last year’s bill.

The former bill, which passed the Vermont Senate, but failed in the House, would have created a commercial market for marijuana in the state, much like the system established in Colorado.

The new bill is much shorter, and would be more like the system in Washington, DC, where there are no provisions for sales but people can possess and grow small amounts of marijuana.

Republican Governor Phil Scott will be the new bill's biggest obstacle. He opposed the bill last year when he was lieutenant governor, and has raised concerns against legalization.

Rebecca Kelley, Scott's spokeswoman, said the Governor wants any marijuana legalization law to address public safety concerns, including law enforcement’s ability to test for impairment and keep roads safe.

Vermont: Governor Pardons 192 Marijuana Offenders

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont governor Peter Schumlin (D) announced pardons Tuesday for 192 people with former convictions for marijuana possession. All but 15 of those pardoned were residents of Vermont.

The state decriminalized pot in 2013, but has not yet legalized and regulated the plant as eight other states have, including Vermont's neighbors Massachusetts and Maine.

Although laws and attitudes toward marijuana have changed a lot in the past several years, few governors have issued pardons to marijuana offenders.

“What he’s [Governor Shumlin] doing is, it’s almost unimaginably safe [from criticism] if you think in terms of 40 years ago,” P.S. Ruckman, Jr., a professor of political science at Rock Valley College in Illinois, told The Christian Science Monitor in an interview. “It’s highly significant. I think it’s likely we'll see more of it.”

Gov. Shumlin’s pardon applied only to people convicted of possessing less than an ounce of pot who had no violent criminal histories, felony convictions, or record of driving under the influence or reckless driving.

“When you look at the Vermonters who are sitting out there with criminal records because they had an ounce or less of marijuana — could have happened in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s – there’s thousands of them,” he said in early December.

U.S.: 4 States Most Likely To Legalize Recreational Marijuana Next

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Legalized recreational marijuana has been a big news headline ever since the Election Day, when the number of states with legal pot going from 4 to 8. Several other states are getting closer to seeing legal recreational pot legalized, with some being closer than others.

In Arizona, Proposition 205 was defeated by a margin of just 2 percent. Cannabis advocacy groups encouraged by the close defeat will focus their attention on remaining hesitant voters. They expect to see legal recreational weed passed very soon. California just passed Prop 64, but similar measures in 2010, 2012, and 2014 were defeated. Oregon voted “No” on legal cannabis in 2012, then “Yes” in 2014.

Recreational marijuana becomes officially legal in Massachusetts on December 15, 2016, allowing adults to possess as much cannabis as they can grow. Otherwise, individuals can have up to 1 ounce, including 5 grams of concentrate. Neighboring states Rhode Island and Vermont are likely to follow suit, since citizens of those states could easily cross the border to take advantage of legal pot in Massachusetts. Both states are interested in the tax revenue the legal cannabis industry generates.

Vermont: Thieves Mistaking Hemp For Pot

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont State Police say three men stole hemp from a farm in Shaftsbury because they thought it was pot.

Troopers responded to a suspicious vehicle complaint in Shaftsbury and found Leon Lovelace, 21, Brett Stone, 24, and Cody Smith, 20, all of Hoosick Falls, New York. The three men had plants that looked like marijuana; they were cited for possession and released.

A follow-up investigation revealed that two of the men had given false names, and that the plants were in fact hemp, not pot.

Police say the hemp was stolen from a farm in Shaftsbury. They also say that farm has had a lot of plants stolen recently because people think it is marijuana.

The suspects still face charges for theft and providing false names to police.

Vermont: Bernie Sanders Slams DEA For Not Reclassifying Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Bernie Sanders responded to the Drug Enforcement Administration's decision not to reclassify marijuana on Thursday, taking to Twitter to make it clear that he was dissatisfied.

The tweet reads:

"People can argue about the pluses and minuses of marijuana, but everyone knows it's not a killer drug like heroin. https://twitter.com/USATODAY/status/763727086573920256 …"

Sanders introduced legislation last November while seeking the Democratic nomination for president that would entirely de-schedule marijuana or remove it from the Controlled Substances Act, decriminalizing it at the federal level. His legislation is modeled after a bill introduced in 2013 by Rep. Jared Polos (D-Colo.) and would allow states to decide how to regulate marijuana.

Vermont: Doctors And Researchers Think Marijuana Study Was Flawed

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Researchers say a report assessing the public health risks of legalizing marijuana in Vermont is flawed.

The 84-page assessment was released during the legislative session in mid-January, according to the Burlington Free Press. The report offered policy recommendations, a summary and conclusions based on available research.

This spring a bill to legalize marijuana died in the Vermont House.

Doctors and researchers wrote to lawmakers that the scope of the report was too narrow, only focused on the negative impacts, and lacked the context of the state’s opioid crisis.

A state public health analyst who promoted the report says the assessment wasn’t intended to advocate for one side or another. Everyone involved was asked to disregard their own personal biases.

U.S.: Hemp Industry Generates Half a Billion Dollars In Sales

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The hemp industry netted half a billion dollars in sales in the United States last year, despite unconstitutional federal restrictions on industrial hemp farming.

As reported in The Weed Blog:

"The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a non-profit trade association consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, has released final estimates of the size of the 2015 U.S. retail market for hemp products. Data from market research supports an estimate of total retail sales of hemp food, supplements and body care products in the United States at $283 million….The HIA has also reviewed sales of clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products, and estimates the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2015 to be at least $573 million."

Eric Steentres, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association, says the next step is very obvious.

“We need Congress to pass federal legislation to allow commercial hemp farming nationally, for this ripe industry to finally be able to bloom,” he said.

But congressional action seems unlikely anytime soon.

It is technically "legal" to grow hemp, but farmers are required to obtain a permit from the DEA. That happened just once in four decades up until 2014. Since then some states have taken action to nullify the federal regulation.

Vermont: Lawmakers Seen Drinking In Hallway Just Before Voting No On Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

When the Vermont House on Tuesday soundly rejected a Senate proposal to legalize marijuana and create a regulated retail market for it -- and even failed to decriminalize possession and cultivation of just two cannabis plants -- their unfortunate lack of political courage didn't shock many political observers.

What was a bit more upsetting, though, was that at least two of the politicians who voted "No" on legalization were seen (and photographed!) drinking alcohol in the hall shortly before the vote, according to multiple sources. Photos tweeted by reporter Neil Goswami depict Rep. Gary Viens (R-Newport) and Rep. Corey Parent (R-St. Albans City) enjoying alcholic beverages at the State House during a 15-minute recess from the marijuana debate.

"Drinking in the State House is cool, according to these people who voted against legal pot," Goswami tweeted.

Both Viens and Parent are widely grinning in the photos, apparently believing themselves to be quite clever in taking a drink in the hall before batting down a bill that would have treated marijuana similarly to alcohol.

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.

Wisconsin: Bernie Sanders Says Marijuana Should Not Be A Federal Crime

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Campaigning for President in liberal Madison, Wisconsin, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) defended marijuana, saying it should not be a federal crime.

Sanders criticized the American War On Drugs, saying that millions of lives have been "ruined" because they got a police record, and sometimes prison sentences, for possessing marijuana, reports Tom Kertscher at Politifact.

"Today, under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed in the same Schedule I as heroin," Sanders said. "That is nuts."

"Now people can argue -- although I suspect in this audience, there may not be much of an argument -- about the pluses and minuses of marijuana," Sanders said, drawing cheers from the crowd of thousands at the Alliant Energy Center. "But everybody knows marijuana is not a killer drug like heroin."

Sanders then pointed out he's introduced legislation which would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act -- as in DEscheduling cannabis, not REscheduling it. (Merely moving marijuana to Schedule II would effectively hand over its control to Big Pharma.)

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: State Could Be Next To Legalize Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont's Senate passed a bill last month that would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for people 21 and over. The bill easily passed with a vote of 17 to 12; this week it is being debated by the state House.

Laura Subin, Laura Subin, director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, has been fighting for the legalization of marijuana in Vermont over the past few years and is finally glad to see the bill make its way through the Senate and now on to the state House.

According to Subin, support for the bill continues to “pour in with large numbers joining the Coalition, liking our Facebook page and wanting to stay informed with updates and alerts from the Coalition.”

Vermont would be the first state to legalize marijuana via lawmakers and not voters.

Vermont state representative Chris Pearson, who penned a House version of the bill, is satisfied with the current legislation.

“The Senate bill would move the state towards a legalized environment for recreational cannabis," Pearson said. "We would tax and regulate it and treat it like we do alcohol and tobacco. It’s not as far-reaching as the bill that I and others introduced, but it’s a big, big step in the right direction.”

The bill up for debate at the House is stricter than the original. It would not allow home cultivation, and penalties for possessing more than an ounce would remain unchanged.

Subin is disappointed in the tight restrictions in the bill, but says it's at least a step closer to making marijuana legal for Vermont residents.

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: Legislature On Track To Be First In U.S. To Legalize Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont could soon become the first US state to legalize recreational marijuana use through legislation and not through a voter initiative. Supporters of marijuana legalization feel this could speed up its acceptance across the nation.

The Senate passed the bill in February; now it goes before state representatives. The bill would allow adults 21 years of age and older to purchase, possess, and use marijuana legally.

The proposal would not allow users to grow their own plants and would not allow the sale of edible marijuana products.

Lawmakers have until the end of May, when the current session ends, to act on the proposal.

The law would require a 25 percent sales tax on the drug, which would fund drug education and law enforcement programs.

State Senator Jeanette White was a sponsor of the bill. "It makes for a much more thoughtful and measured approach," she said. "We got to work out the details, we got to ask the questions first and put the whole infrastructure in place before it happens."

Four states,(Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska,) as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized marijuana through ballot initiatives, and voters in four more states, including neighboring Massachusetts, are to vote on legalization in November. The drug remains illegal under federal law.

Vermont: State's First Cannabis-Dedicated Media Platform Launched

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Two Vermont-based entrepreneurs have founded what they say is the first cannabis-dedicated media platform in the state, starting with the launch of Heady Vermont, a news and culture site that analyzes and follows pot developments in Vermont and the surrounding region.

“The Vermont media's done a fantastic job of covering statehouse developments and cannabis news,” said Monica Donovan, managing partner and publisher.

“We sensed a need for deeper coverage that can evolve with the interests and needs of Vermonters as we move towards legalization,” added Editor-in-Chief Eli Harrington.

Heady Vermont produces and publishes daily news and media content on its site HeadyVermont.com — including in-depth features, guest op-eds and third party listings. In addition to content and media creation, Heady Vermont promotes community cannabis events and education.

"Heady Vermont is all at once newsworthy, enjoyable and thought-provoking, calling for accountability and fairness in a growth industry that frequently needs to check in with itself," said Donovan. "There exists a highly diverse variety of interests and positions at stake in the cannabis community. I think this is a great chance to give voice to the chorus making up the emerging cannabis scene in Vermont."

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