Vermont paves the way for Texas on marijuana legalization
Marijuana legalization has not been approved by a state legislature until now, as Vermont now will potentially join seven other states which now permit recreational consumption of cannabis.
Colorado, Washington, Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada have all legalized marijuana for recreational use, but they did so through ballot initiative, a process where citizens collect signatures and then place the measure on the November ballot to be voted on by registered voters.
Where does Texas fit in to all of this?
Given that the legislative session in the Lone Star State is coming to an end, and time ran out on two important marijuana bills despite having strong support from legislators, Texas has no further hope of legalization this year, whether it be medical or recreational.
In fact, Texas must wait until 2019 for another try, the next time the state legislature meets.
Despite the numerous petitions seen floating around the internet, or even one you may have signed somewhere in person, Texas does not allow ballot initiatives. Only the legislature, comprised of both state representatives and state senators, can enact reform.
Until Vermont’s legislature voted to legalize marijuana, it was a toss up to see which state legislature would act first. Now that the state known for its cheddar cheese and maple syrup has broken that glass ceiling, other states are likely to follow suit, effectively speeding up the process. Like Texas, Vermont does not allow for ballot initiatives either.
Texans won’t have to wait until 2019 to start working on reform however, as legislators can still be spoken to for their future support, and primaries can be voted in next year to decide just how friendly the state legislature is towards marijuana reform.
Vermont has not fully cleared the hurdle yet however, as the bill still has to be signed into law by Governor Phil Scott, a Republican.
The bill eliminates penalties for those possessing one ounce of marijuana or less, and will allow the possession of up to two mature plants by July 2018. It also creates a nine-person commission to study the best way to tax and regulate marijuana in the future.
“It’s no secret that I don’t believe this a priority for Vermont,” Scott told Vermont Public Radio.
“I believe that what we should be doing is trying to find ways to protect those on our highways, to deliver a level of impairment that is consistent throughout the northeast, as well as to address the edibles for our kids before we move forward with legalization,” Scott said. He added that he believes marijuana legalization is “inevitable.”
Scott said he will “review” the bill passed by the House and wouldn’t commit to vetoing the legislation.
*Update: On Wednesday, May 24, 2017 Gov. Scott vetoed this bill citing concerns about public safety and children’s safety, the governor outlined three reasons why he made that decision. First, he said the bill does not have stiff enough penalties for selling marijuana to minors. He wants lawmakers to rewrite those sections. Second, the governor says the bill needs more aggressive penalties for using marijuana while driving and around children. And third, he said the marijuana regulatory commission needs more time to study the issue and the potential mental health and drug use prevention implications.