Justice

Vermont Senate Votes To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

CREDIT: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Vermont is one step closer to becoming the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana—and the first state to do so through its legislature.

On Thursday, the Vermont Senate voted 17-12 to allow possession and sales of recreational cannabis in the Green Mountain State. (Medical marijuana is already permitted in Vermont.)

If enacted, S. 241 would legalize retail sales of marijuana to people 21 years and older beginning January 2, 2018. Vermont residents would be allowed to purchase up to half an ounce at a time, while out-of-staters would be restricted to a quarter-ounce. A 25 percent sales tax on recreational sales is expected to generate $30 to $40 million annually, according to WPTZ.

The bill does not permit edibles or personal growing of marijuana.

S. 241 will now proceed to the Vermont House, which is expected to begin consideration on March 14. If it passes the House, Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) has promised to sign the measure, hailing it as an end to “the failed policy of prohibition in Vermont.”

Just four states—Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska—plus Washington DC currently allow recreational consumption of marijuana. In each case, legalization was enacted by ballot initiative.

However, Vermont law does not allow for ballot initiatives. If legalization is to pass, therefore, it must happen through the state legislature.

In 2009, Vermont became the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage solely via the legislature, rather than through court rulings. If S. 241 succeeds, it will repeat that feat with cannabis.