House delays action on marijuana bill
The bill had been up for debate in the House Monday, but lawmakers decided to delay action until Tuesday.
A legalization bill passed the Senate earlier this year, but house committees largely squashed it. Senators paired their old language with a miscellaneous crime bill to force Representatives to consider it as a chamber. “Today is our last stand,” said Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington).
Pearson, the House Progressive Party leader, concedes his peers are unlikely to sign-off on a measure legalizing sale through dispensaries.
He says the chamber could either legalize or decriminalize possession of a couple of plants, both of which he calls frustrating compromises. “Pretty clear prohibition is not working, so we’ve got to find something,” he said.
House Speaker Shap Smith says compromise is complicated by a lack of consensus within the body amongst proponents — there’s not a unified vision for legalization. “I do think that there is the potential for compromise — that would be around widening the decriminalization statute,” Smith said.
That may work to squeak out a majority in the House, but may not be well received by the Senate. A small committee made up of three lawmakers from both chambers could agree to just about anything, but such a compromise would need to secure majority support from Representatives and Senators. “I would be surprised if it does pass; however, we’re full of surprises in this building,” said Rep. Brian Savage (R-Swanton).
“This debate has taken turns, twists, every step of the way, so I’m not giving up at this point,” Rep. Pearson said.
While the legalization debate flounders, representatives did overwhelmingly pass a change to the medical law.
They loosened standards surrounding physician-patient relationships and added two new qualifying conditions: glaucoma and chronic pain.
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