Vermont has edged closer to rolling out a recreational cannabis industry after bill S 54 cleared a key House committee.

The state legalized medicinal marijuana back in 2004 and approved recreational use last year, but it is limited to low-level possession and home cultivation. S 54 seeks to introduce a proper cannabis industry that the state can tax at 16%, with an optional 2% local tax thrown in for good measure.

It would allow dispensaries to set up across Vermont by 2021. The bill passed through the Senate with a veto-proof majority in February and it is slowly working its way through the House.

S 54 has now cleared the House Government Operations Committee via a 10-1 vote and that is a key milestone. Gov. Phil Scott has indicated that he will sign it, provided it includes a framework for drivers to have their saliva tested and makes provisions for dedicated funding that would be channelled toward education and prevention schemes.

The new House version of the bill has taken his wishes on board, as it now includes a saliva testing protocol to help the police and pledges to funnel 30% of revenue tax into helping anyone suffering from substance abuse problems.

The committee believes Vermont can rake in between $4 million and $8 million in tax during the first full year of recreational cannabis sales.

S 54 must now clear the House Ways and Means and Appropriations Committees before it can go to the floor for a vote and then head to Scott’s desk to be signed into law.

Other states in New England are also steaming ahead with bills that seek to liberalize cannabis before the current legislative session ends. The New Hampshire Senate approved a bill – HB 364 – on Thursday that would allow patients that qualify for medicinal cannabis to grow their own at home. It secured a 14-10 victory in the vote.

It would allow patients to possess three mature plants, three immature plants and 12 seedlings.

The Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding in Connecticut has also signed off a bill that will be crucial in plans to legalize marijuana in the state. SB 1138 would place a 6.35% tax on retail cannabis sales, while any jurisdictions that permit dispensaries to operate would be entitled to a further 3% of the revenue they earn.

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