Members of the Vermont state Senate approved a pair of marijuana law reform measures this morning, sending both to the desk of Governor Phil Scott.
Senators approved S. 54, which regulates the commercial production and retail sales of marijuana to adults, by a vote of 23 to 6. A bicameral conference committee had previously reconciled the bill’s language earlier this month. House members signed off last week on the amended language.
In a separate vote today, Senators approved S. 234 — which facilitates the automatic expungement of many past, low-level marijuana possession convictions — by a voice vote. The measure had been previously approved by House lawmakers last week by a vote of 113 to 10.
Under the measure, those convicted of possession offenses involving up to two ounces of marijuana are eligible to have their records automatically reviewed and wiped clean. Once a person’s record is cleared, they will be notified via mail. A separate provision in the bill states that, starting January 2021, those with past convictions are no longer required to disclose the conviction, regardless of whether or not they’ve received a notice of expungement.
The measure also depenalizes marijuana-related activities involving the possession of between one and two ounces of cannabis and/or the personal cultivation of up to three mature marijuana plants to fine-only offenses. Under current law, possession offenses over one ounce is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six-months in jail.
Both measures now await final action by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. In 2018, Gov. Scott signed legislation into law depenalizing minor marijuana possession and cultivation activities, but in 2019 he expressed opposition toward legislative efforts to expand the law to regulate commercial activities.
NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf urged the Governor to sign both measures into law. She said: “It’s time that Vermont stops ceding control of the marijuana market to unregulated and untaxed criminal enterprises and, instead, establishes a pragmatic regulatory framework for this industry. I urge Governor Scott to sign these bills into law to ensure safe and convenient cannabis access for adults, and to ensure that minor offenders are no longer stigmatized and disenfranchised by the collateral consequences of a criminal record for an incident that is no longer a crime.”
Do you live in Vermont? If so, contact Gov, Scott and urge him to sign S. 54 and S. 234 into law.