An amended version of legislation that had been previously approved by the House to permit the development of a domestic hemp industry in Vermont was passed by the Senate by a 15-10 vote. The amended measure reportedly “narrows the focus” of the bill (H.783) and now must be re-approved by the Rouse before being sent to the governor. Because the measure failed to receive two-thirds majority support in the Senate, it is expected be vetoed by Gov. Howard Dean who remains opposed to any efforts to legalize industrial hemp. “It is a terrible message to send to children,” wrote Dean in an April 8 letter to hemp-activist, Colorado Sen. Lloyd Casey (D-Northglenn).
Rep. Fred Maslack (R-Poultney), a chief proponent of the legislation, told NORML that the House is going to take its time and “let things develop” before rushing to approve the amended legislation. Maslack stated that House backers are considering several options at this time, including trying to override Dean’s expected veto of the bill and/or tacking the controversial legislation onto an economic development bill considered sacred to the governor. “It’s not over ’til it’s over,” Maslack told the Associated Press.
Kathleen Keenan, chairwoman of the House Commerce Committee, told the AP that she sees hemp as an “economic development issue,” but noted that “it has enough merit to stand alone.” Keenan further added that she was uncertain how committed Dean was to the economic development bill and cautioned that he may, in fact, veto it with the hemp provision included.
Keenan’s warning has little affect on the bill’s proponents, however, who consider the latest round of political one-upmanship a “positive” note. The approval from the Senate was “one more step in the process,” said Maslack. “[It’s] not the first step [and it’s certainly] not the last step,” but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
For more information on the latest status of the Vermont hemp bill, please contact the House Clerk’s Office at (802) 828-2247. Rep. Fred Maslack may be contacted via e-mail at: email@example.com