Legislation to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales — to become law without his signature. With this move, Vermont joins the 10 existing U.S. states that have laws regulating and taxing cannabis for adult use.
Key provisions of S. 54 include the creation of a new independent board to regulate medical and adult-use cannabis; prioritization of business licensing for small-scale cultivators, minority-owned businesses, and woman-owned businesses; and independent lab testing of all cannabis sold to patients and adult consumers.
An economic report released in August analyzed the revenue-generating potential of commercial cannabis in Vermont. The report indicates that Vermonters will likely spend more than $200 million each year buying cannabis from retail stores, generating tens of millions in direct cannabis tax revenues through 2025.
An overwhelming majority of Vermonters support this legislation. A poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project in February found that 76 percent of Vermont residents support allowing adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses.
Vermont and Illinois are the only states that have enacted legalization laws through the legislature. All of the other adult-use legalization laws were enacted by ballot measure, a process that is not available in 26 states. As many as 10 other states are expected to seriously consider enacting legalization legislatively in the coming year.
The Marijuana Policy Project has advocated for cannabis policy reforms in Vermont for more than 15 years. The state legislature passed a limited medical cannabis law in 2004, decriminalized possession in 2013, and has gradually improved its cannabis policies in the years since. In 2018, Vermont successfully legalized possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and older, but sales remained illegal and unregulated.
S. 54 is poised to take effect on October 1, 2020, and legal sales will begin in 2022.
Statement from Steven Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project:
“The significance of Vermont’s decision to legalize and regulate cannabis sales, especially in a state with a Republican governor and through the legislative process, cannot be overstated. Poll after poll shows that Republicans support cannabis legalization, and more and more, we see elected Republicans publicly taking that same stance and standing up for their constituents and their ideological base. The fact that Vermont accomplished this through the legislative process is also incredibly important because it shows that representative, democratic government is up to this challenge and is proving responsive to average citizens. This is an historic move that adds to the momentum of our movement, and underlines its breadth and depth, and importantly, it comes as other state legislatures are poised to seriously consider legalization in the very near future.”
Statement from Matt Simon, New England political director at the Marijuana Policy Project:
“This victory represents the product of more than five years of study, public hearings, difficult conversations, and hard work by legislators and advocates. Vermonters overwhelmingly support legalizing and regulating cannabis sales, and one by one their elected officials have joined the chorus of support. Vermont should be commended for the thoughtful process that resulted in the bill’s passage, and lawmakers in other states should strive to emulate Vermont’s successful example.”