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Marijuana Legalization Headed for Senate Vote

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Senate Appropriations Committee chair Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) leads a committee discussion Monday on marijuana legislation. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • Senate Appropriations Committee chair Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) leads a committee discussion Monday on marijuana legislation.
A bill that would legalize the sale and possession of marijuana in Vermont starting in 2018 is headed to the Senate floor for debate Wednesday afternoon.

The bill nicked its way through the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, passing by a 4-3 vote, including the support of one member who says she’ll vote against it on the Senate floor. “I think the debate on the floor is important,” said Sen. Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden), in explaining her vote.

Senate Appropriations Committee chair Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) also voted to send the bill to the full Senate, but said she’s unsure how she’ll vote when it gets there.

The bill would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and allow state-permitted marijuana growing facilities and retail stores. The state would charge a 25 percent tax on marijuana sales. Money raised by the tax would be targeted for drug treatment and prevention, law enforcement and administration. The bill would not legalize edible marijuana products or home-growing of marijuana.

The Appropriations Committee tussled Monday over start-up costs that the Shumlin administration projects the state will need to pay before tax revenues come in from marijuana sales. Ultimately, the committee trimmed some of those costs, but left about $400,000 in 2017 expenses to be borrowed from the 2018 budget.

Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), who supports legalization, predicted the bill will pass the full Senate. There are 29 senators eligible to vote. Benning said, “I think there’s at least 15 votes [in favor], but there are people holding their cards close to their chests.”


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