Pubdate: Tue, 29 Mar 2016
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2016 Rutland Herald
Author: Josh O'Gorman


MONTPELIER - The marijuana legalization discussion is expected to 
heat up this week with a series of joint legislative hearings and one 
that will solicit testimony from the public.

The House Judiciary Committee, the committee of jurisdiction for the 
legalization bill that cleared the Senate in February, will hold 
hearings with the House committees on government operations and human 
services, as well as a public hearing Thursday night at the State House.

This will be the second full week the House Judiciary Committee will 
study the bill that would create a regulated system of cultivation 
and sales and would allow residents 21 years old and older to 
purchase as much as half an ounce of marijuana, beginning in 2018.

Last week, the committee took testimony from law enforcement 
officials, including Maj. Glenn Hall with the Vermont State Police, 
who disputed the notion that legal sales will eliminate the state's 
marijuana black market by noting that people younger than 21 years 
old will still be prohibited from buying the product legally.

The committee also heard from Windsor County State's Attorney David 
Cahill, who offered testimony on behalf of an organization 
representing state prosecutors and urged lawmakers to explore 
implementing roadside saliva-based testing technology to determine if 
a driver is under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

On Wednesday, The House Judiciary will hold a joint hearing with the 
House Government Operations Committee, and will take testimony from 
state officials representing the Agency of Agriculture, Agency of 
Commerce and Community Development and the Department of Financial Regulation.

"We don't have possession and probably won't have possession and 
judiciary has asked us to weigh in the bill," said Rep. Donna 
Sweaney, D-Windsor, chairwoman of the House Government Operations 
Committee. "We're going to keep an open mind and take a look at what 
the Senate did and offer thoughts on how we might change it or improve it."

The joint hearing will also include testimony from the Association of 
Washington Cities and the Colorado Municipal League, which represent 
municipal interests in two of the four states that have legalized marijuana.

"We're going to look at the effect legalization has had on local 
government, what issues it brings up regarding police, banking and 
local licensing and rule-making," Sweaney said.

Thursday afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a joint 
hearing with the House Human Services Committee, during which 
lawmakers will hear from officials from Vermont's Department of 
Public Safety, as well as the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Later that evening, the House committees on judiciary and government 
operations will hold a joint public hearing, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in 
the House Chamber. Members of the public will be limited to two 
minutes of testimony, and may begin signing up to speak at 4:30 pm.

Officials expect more people will sign up to speak than time will allow.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom