Vermont House blocks consideration of marijuana bill

By WILSON RINGMarketsAssociated Press

The Vermont House has blocked consideration of a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state.

Lawmakers in the House refused to take up the bill Wednesday during a special veto session. It won approval in the Senate on a voice vote earlier in the day.

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Senate negotiators announced Wednesday that they had reached a deal with the governor's office on the measure.

Negotiators addressed the concerns expressed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott when be vetoed the bill last month that would have made Vermont the ninth state in the country to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, Democratic Sen. Dick Sears said.

"We just met with the governor, he's happy," said Sears, who worked on the issue in the Senate. "We've come to an agreement. It's a bill that he'll sign if we can get it to him."

The House would have needed to agree to suspend legislative rules so that it could have been considered during the current veto session.

"I don't think anyone has an illusion that it won't eventually pass, but why do we have to do it now?" House Minority Leader Don Turner, a Republican, said earlier Wednesday.

When Scott vetoed the bill last month he said he was not philosophically opposed to marijuana legalization, but he had concerns about public safety, children's health and how to measure impaired drivers.

Sears said the new version of the proposal addressed those concerns by, for example, creating misdemeanor crimes with no jail times for people using marijuana in a vehicle with children present.

The Legislature can still take up the bill when lawmakers return in January and it can be passed in time to have the same effective date, currently slated for July 1, 2018.

The proposal would legalize recreational use of marijuana effective on July 1, 2018. It would also create a commission that would develop plans to regulate marijuana.


This story has been corrected to say the proposed effective date is July 1, 2018, not 2019.