Legislative leaders in Vermont announced on Monday that they doubted they could gain the support in the House for a Senate passed bill that would have legalized marijuana in Vermont.
A compromise that would involve expanded decriminalization has been delated to a vote on Tuesday. Unfortunately, even that measure looks like it might be uncertain. The compromise would involve replacing penalties with a fine for possession of up to two ounces. It would also allow cultivation of up to two plants.
Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, the leader of majority Democrats in the House, said Monday night that the amendment containing the compromise language had not yet been drafted. As for whether it had the votes to pass, she said, “The outcome is unclear.”
The House has however approved a measure to expand medical marijuana in the state to more patients. The wording of the medical marijuana provision has been changed from ‘severe pain’ to ‘chronic pain’.
The Senate had originally passed a bill that would have legalization of up to a an ounce for those aged 21 and over. The Senate did not vote to allow home cultivation, something that supporters in the House had demanded be included in the bill.
Overall though, the 150 member House has far less support for legalization than in the senate.
Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. Kate Webb of Shelburne said Democratic leaders did not want to bring a bill to the floor just to have it killed.
“What is something that the House could do that isn’t just going to be a negative vote?” Webb said. Aware that other states were moving on the issue — Maine and Massachusetts may face referenda in November — Webb said Vermont lawmakers might be willing to “move the conversation forward but stop short of legalization.”
House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, said he, too, wanted to wait until it was clear that advocates for legalization had the needed support in the House — perhaps next year.
“It’s not completely baked yet,” he said of the legalization proposal, employing one of the many puns the issue seems to attract.
Still, Smith relented and said he would not block the House from voting.
“Unfortunately, I think it may do some long-term harm to the issue. I was trying to avoid that,” he said.