The Vermont House has voted 90-54 in favour of a bill that seeks to legalize recreational cannabis sales at dispensaries across the state.

Vermont legalized recreational marijuana consumption and home growing in 2018, but commercial sales remain outlawed. Attorney General T.J. Donovan has called for that to change, arguing that it “isn’t the Vermont way” to tell people they can legally enjoy cannabis, but not tell them how to obtain it.

S 54 was introduced last year to change that situation. It would create a Vermont Cannabis Control Board to regulate marijuana sales, and businesses could sell marijuana with a THC level below 30%. Flavoured cannabis vapes would be banned.

The Senate passed the bill last year, and it been working its way through the House since the start of 2020. It has now gained approval in both chambers, but they have added various amendments to the initial bill.

The Senate bill calls for a 16% tax on retail sales of marijuana and allows the host municipalities to impose an additional 2% local tax. The House measure calls for a 20% tax on retail sales, but no special local option tax.

It will now need to go to a conference committee, which will see the House and Senate thrash out a final version. Further amendments could include restrictions on advertising.

This process could take a few weeks, but it will then arrive on Gov. Phil Scott’s desk. He privately signed Vermont’s marijuana bill into law in January 2018, making it the ninth state to approve recreational marijuana use and the first to do so via an act of state legislature rather than a voter referendum.

Scott said he signed it with mixed emotions, saying he is not necessarily a supporter of marijuana legalization, but adding that what adults do behind closed doors on private property is their choice.

Cannabis advocacy group NORML assigned Scott a C grade in its 2020 gubernatorial scorecard. Some lawmakers believe they may need to override his veto if they are to turn S 54 into law, but others believe he has softened his stance.

Vermont legalized medical marijuana back in 2004. In 2017, Scott signed legislation that significantly improved patients’ access to the medical marijuana program, adding post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and Crohn’s disease to the list of qualifying conditions.

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