Prospects for marijuana legalization dim
*UPDATE: On 3/22, Bill H.170 passed the House Judiciary Committee vote by 8-3, and it is now being sent to the House floor, where it is expected to be voted on tomorrow*
As lawmakers wrapped up crossover week — the deadline for most legislation — one high-profile bill didn’t make the cutoff, and its future in the House is in doubt.
H.170, a bill that would legalize adult possession of limited amounts of marijuana, is still on the wall of the House Judiciary Committee.
The bill was a scaled-down version of a Senate proposal last year that would have created a Colorado-model regulated market for pot.
The House proposal does not include a regulatory structure for taxing marijuana sales. Instead, it removes all penalties for adult possession of a small amount of marijuana — a model adopted in Washington, D.C. Sponsors dubbed the measure “decrim 2.0” and billed it as an add-on to a 2014 Vermont law that decriminalized possession of less than 1 ounce.
Under current law, possession of less than an ounce is punishable by a civil fine, rather than a criminal penalty.
Decrim 2.0 debuted with strong support from the leadership in the Judiciary Committee. It even had the backing of Rep. Tom Burditt, R-West Rutland, whose dissenting vote last year helped extinguish a Senate marijuana legalization bill.
Through committee review, this year’s proposal was downgraded in scope. The panel started with a provision that would have legalized possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana, but then dropped the amount to 1 ounce. The current draft would allow for possession of up to two mature plants.
But as the committee worked furiously to pass out several measures ahead of crossover deadline, H.170 was not among them.
Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger