The Vermont State Senate on January 10 approved a bill legalizing "recreational" marijuana, for consumption or cultivation. The law does not legalize the sale of cannabis or cannabis-infused products in the state, and will now go to the Governor for a signature before officially becoming law.
This move puts Vermont on course to be the first state to legalize marijuana in 2018, as well as the first state to do so through its legislature, rather than through a popular vote.
The move comes less than a week after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back Obama-era protections for the cannabis industry, raising questions about state's rights and garnering backlash from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers.
Watch: What will happen to the cannabis industry now that Obama-era protections are gone?
A 2016 poll conducted by Vermont Public Radio and The Castleton Polling Institute found that 55 percent of Vermonters supported legal marijuana, while 32 percent opposed it and 13 percent were unsure or had no opinion.
"The majority of Vermonters, like the majority of the American public, desire to live in a community where responsible adults who choose to consume cannabis are no longer criminalized or stigmatized," said Paul Armenatano, deputy director of cannabis advocacy group NORML, in a statement. "Governor Scott would be wise to provide Vermonters with this path forward, rather than cling to the failed policies of the past."
Republican Governor Phil Scott vetoed a cannabis bill last year, because he thought it did not do enough to protect children from marijuana and enhance highway safety. He has signaled he will sign the current bill.
According to NORML, New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut also have the potential to pass marijuana legalization bills in 2018.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
The land of the best maple syrup may soon be the land of legal weed, now that a marijuana legalization bill has officially passed through the Vermont state house.
The vote comes just hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back Obama-era limitations on federal involvement in state that legalize cannabis, potentially ending the “hands off” approach the federal government has taken since 2013.
The bill still needs to be passed by the state senate, and Governor Phil Scott has said he would sign it into law if it makes it to his desk.
When he does, Vermont will be the first state to legalize marijuana through its legislature; all other 8 states (and DC) with legal marijuana laws have passed those laws through a popular vote.
The state, which has had legal medical marijuana since 2004, will still not allow cannabis sales. Under the new law, adults 21 years or older would be allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, and to grow marijuana in their homes.
This follows in the footsteps of the District of Columbia and the state of Maine - which both have legalized the use of "recreational" marijuana, but not the sale.
Watch: This D.C. event lets you paint while you smoke cannabis
In a press release, marijuana advocacy group NORML praised the vote, referring to Sessions’ recent policy announcement.
“As is evidence by Vermont lawmakers’ actions, it is clear that the Trump administration is not going to be able to cease this momentum in favor of the enactment of rational marijuana policies.”
If the law is passed, Vermont will become the ninth state to have legal adult use marijuana – often referred to as “recreational.” Currently eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized weed. California, which many project will become the largest marijuana market in the world, opened its first adult use cannabis shops on Jan 1.
The Associated Press contributed to this article