Vermont: Lawmakers Advance Marijuana Sales Measure to Governor’s Desk

Montpelier, VT: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, Senate Bill 54, to regulate the commercial production and retail sales of marijuana to adults. The measure now awaits action from Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

Senate members passed an initial version of the bill in 2019, while House members passed their own version of the legislation in February. Members of a six-member bicameral conference committee reconciled the language of the two bills this summer – sending it back to both chambers for reconsideration.

House members signed off on the amended language last week while the Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure on Tuesday.

It is not known whether Gov. Scott supports the bill’s passage. Although he signed legislation into law in 2018 depenalizing the possession and personal cultivation of small quantities of cannabis, that legislation did not permit for commercial activities, such as retail sales. Last week, he indicated that he approved of some of the new amendments to the bill, but he stopped short of endorsing the legislation. When asked about the Governor’s position on the bill, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears responded, “I don’t know if he will sign it, but I would be surprised if he didn’t.” According to a just-released statewide poll by Castleton University, nearly seven in ten Vermonters say they support the measure.   

Senate Bill 54 establishes rules and taxation rates governing the licensed commercial production and sale of cannabis and cannabis products to adults. Under the plan, retail products would be subject to a 14 percent excise tax, in addition to the state’s six percent general sales tax. The potency of herbal cannabis products will be capped at 30 percent THC while concentrates will be limited to no more than 60 percent THC. Products cannot be packaged in a manner that appears appealing to children. Prior to the operation of any licensed cannabis facility, a municipality will need to hold a vote to in favor of permitting commercial activities within their locality.

If signed into law, S. 54 would take effect on October 1, 2020. However, regulators will not begin licensing cannabis-related businesses and activities until the spring of 2022.

For more information, contact Carly Wolf, NORML States Policies Coordinator.