Pubdate: Sat, 09 Apr 2016
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2016 Burlington Free Press
Author: Dave Gram


MONTPELIER, Vt. - Efforts to legalize marijuana in Vermont this year 
may have gone up in smoke Friday, as a House committee passed a 
measure that calls for more study after it stripped out Senate-passed 
provisions that would tax and license pot growers and retailers.

But the chief sponsor of a Senate bill to allow adults to possess up 
to an ounce of pot said the effort had not been nipped in the bud. 
"We have a long way to go and a short time to get there" before 
lawmakers adjourn for the year in about a month, said Sen. Richard 
Sears, D-Bennington. "But I always hold out hope."

Opponents of legal marijuana still saw the House Judiciary 
Committee's version of the bill as planting a seed likely to grow 
into legalization in the near future. It calls for the creation of a 
marijuana advisory commission that would "propose a comprehensive 
regulatory structure that establishes controlled access to marijuana."

"What we're still concerned about is the commission and its real 
mission that basically lends itself to saying, 'Figure out how to 
legalize'," said Stephanie Winters, executive director of the 
American Academy of Pediatrics' Vermont chapter, which opposes legalization.

The committee's vote followed another that defeated an expansion of 
decriminalization in Vermont - raising the allowable possession 
amount that would draw a civil fine from one ounce to two, and taking 
the same noncriminal approach to possession of up to two plants.

Matt Simon, New England coordinator for the pro-legalization 
Marijuana Policy Project, said after the committee's vote, "It's very 
disappointing ... the fact that weren't even able to reach a majority 
in favor of expanding decriminalization, let alone legalization."

Measures left in the bill the House committee passed include 
enhancing education and prevention programs for young people; giving 
$350,000 to the Health Department for anti-drug education efforts; 
spending more than $650,000 on a new forensic laboratory, equipment 
and training for the Department of Public Safety; and raising the 
threshold between a misdemeanor and a felony for sale of pot from 
half an ounce to an ounce.

It lowers the blood-alcohol content that triggers a drunken driving 
charge from 0.08 to 0.05 if the person has any of marijuana's active 
ingredient in his or her body. And it creates the seven-member 
Marijuana Advisory Commission, calling on it to issue recommendations 
by Nov. 1, 2017.
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