Vermont House Committee Advances Bill to Regulate and Tax Cannabis Sales

New-Hampshire

The Green Mountain State is one step closer to establishing a bona fide commercial marijuana market.

On Monday, the Vermont House Appropriations Committee narrowly advanced a bill (S. 54) by a vote of 6-5 that would create a “comprehensive regulatory system for the production and sale of cannabis.”

Earlier this month, the House Ways and Means Committee voted 8-3 in favor of S. 54 and amended the proposed tax rate from a 16% sales tax to to 20% combined tax rate (14% excise tax and 6% sales tax).

The House Government Operations Committee also voted unanimously to advance the legislation last month, and a Senate version of the bill passed a floor vote last year.

As currently written, S. 54 would legalize, regulate and tax adult-use cannabis sales for individuals 21 years and older. Under the proposed legislation, a cannabis control board would be established and licenses for cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and laboratories would be established. Integrated licenses would also be created. 

In a statement, Matt Simon, the New England political director for Marijuana Policy Project, praised lawmakers for “heeding the will of voters” and voting in favor of the bill.

“Cannabis regulation is necessary in order to protect consumers and address important public health and safety issues facing the state,” he said via a press release. “It’s time for the House to join the Senate in recognizing that prohibition has failed, and that Vermonters are overwhelmingly ready for a more sensible approach to cannabis.”

A full House vote on S. 54 is expected later this week.

Under current Vermont law, anyone possessing up to 1 oz. of marijuana cannot face a civil penalty or be forced to pay a fine. Medical marijuana sales are also legal in Vermont, and adults (21+) are allowed to cultivate up to six plants for their own personal use.

According to a recent Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project, which works to reform cannabis laws across the country, 76% of Vermont residents believe that adults (21+) should be allowed to purchase recreational cannabis for “regulated, tax paying small businesses.”

The poll, which was conducted earlier this month, surveyed 890 residents from across the state.

“Cannabis is legal for adults in Vermont, so it should come as no surprise that three out of four Vermonters believe there should be a safe, legal way to obtain it,” Simon said in a press release issued last week.

“Legalizing and regulating cannabis sales will protect consumers, and it will create jobs and economic opportunities for small businesses,” he added, noting that adult-use sales would help to supplant the illicit market and prevent Vermonters from crossing into nieghboring Massachusetts to purchase cannabis.

Meanwhile, in nearby New Hampshire, the House of Representatives last week voted 236-112 in favor of a bill (HB 1648) that would allow adults (21+) to possess and cultivate cannabis.

Under the proposed legislation, which is similar to Vermont’s current marijuana cannabis law, adults (21+) would be permitted to possess up to three-quarters of an ounce, five grams of hashish and up to 300 mg. of cannabis-infused products. Granite Staters would also be allowed to cultivate up to six cannabis plants. 

A March 2019 poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center found that more than two-thirds (68%) of New Hampshire residents support the legalization of cannabis for recreational use.