With just a week to go in the legislative session, a much-anticipated marijuana legalization bill is headed to the House floor after a 5-4 committee vote Friday afternoon.
The House Human Services Committee passed H.170, which would legalize possession and growing at home of small amounts of marijuana — but would not allow for sales or commercial growing.
“The body and Vermonters want to vote on this,” said Rep. Ann Pugh (D-South Burlington). The full House vote will take place early next week, she said.
While anything is possible, the vote likely comes too late for legalization legislation to make it through both the Vermont House and Senate this year. Legislators are working toward adjourning for the year next Saturday.
The Senate earlier this month passed an entirely different legalization arrangement that would allow for marijuana retail stores and commercial cultivation. Senate leaders expressed concerns that the House version would not curtail the marijuana black market.
House leaders had indicated they were unsure they had the votes to pass any legalization legislation this year. Pugh said she thinks that has changed. “I was told it was time to vote it out,” she said.
Pugh voted against the bill, saying she sees merits to both sides of the debate but feels no urgency for legalization.
Voting for the bill in her committee were Reps. Oliver Olsen (I-Londonderry), Sandy Haas (P-Rochester), Mike Mrowicki (D-Putney), Theresa Wood (D-Waterbury) and Dan Noyes (D-Wolcott).
Those voting against it were Pugh, Reps. Topper McFaun (R-Barre), Marianna Gamache (R-Swanton) and Carl Rosenquist (R-Georgia).
Reps. Brian Keefe (R-Manchester) and Chip Troiano (D-Hardwick) were absent.
The committee also voted 10-0 on Thursday for a medical marijuana bill that gives sufferers of an expanded list of ailments access to Vermont’s existing registry. Those Vermonters can then buy marijuana products at regulated dispensaries. The bill is likely to pass both chambers this year.