As one Vermont House committee works on a bill that would legalize possession and growing of small amounts of marijuana, other House members still hope to go further — legalizing and taxing the sale of the drug.
Rep. Sam Young (D-Glover) is the lead sponsor of a bill due to be introduced Wednesday. On Tuesday, he collected cosponsors and said he expected to have about 15 lawmakers sign on.
"If we're going to legalize marijuana, I think we should also tax and regulate it," said Young, who is vice chair of the Committee on Ways & Means.
Young said he's received no assurances from legislative leaders that his bill would pass. Taxing and regulating marijuana is an approach the Senate passed last year, but that failed to gain traction in the House.
The bill would piggyback off legislation under discussion in the House Judiciary Committee, according to Young. That proposal would legalize personal possession and homegrown marijuana, but does not allow for retail stores. The panel has scaled back its proposal to legalize no more than one ounce of marijuana, rather than two as originally proposed.
House Judiciary Committee chair Maxine Grad (D-Moretown) said she hopes her panel will pass a bill by mid-March. The proposal appears to have broad support in the House. Grad said consideration of Young's tax-and-regulate approach would be up to other House committees.
Young proposes that the state collect a 15 percent tax on the wholesale price of marijuana and 10 percent on retail sales, while local municipalities could charge 2.5 percent on retail sales.
His bill does not specify how that tax money would be used, but he said he envisions some going to drug prevention and treatment.
Young's bill calls for the Agency of Agriculture to oversee regulation of various sized marijuana producers, including cannabis cooperatives — which would produce marijuana for up to 10 members — craft cultivators and commercial cultivators. The agency would also regulate retailers and testing laboratories.
It's unclear whether any marijuana legalization legislation in the House and Senate that passes this year would meet with Gov. Phil Scott's approval. He said last week that he wants police to have a better ability to measure drivers under the influence of marijuana.
"We have to be able to measure in some way," he said. "We don't have a way to detect and measure that impairment ... I think there needs to be work on a measure."