Two steps back for legalized pot

Well, a pair of House committees got out their carving knives and turned S.241, the marijuana-legalization bill, into an unrecognizable mess.

This is a significant setback for legalization. The best hope is that the House passes the bill and then a House/Senate conference committee comes down firmly on the Senate’s side. After that, perhaps the bill could pass muster in the full House. But the outlook is definitely worse than it was a couple days ago.

Earlier this week, House Judiciary Chair Maxine Grad proposed, well, a Bizarro World version of S.241. She slashed out the legalization stuff, opting instead for a mild extension of decriminalization that would allow for personal cultivation of up to two marijuana plants. That idea was specifically rejected by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Sears, the primary gatekeeper on the Senate side.

Oh, and she also attached the House’s favorite Action Evasion Tactic — a study commission! Yay!

That was bad enough. But even that bill couldn’t pass the full committee. After Grad’s version failed on a 5-6 vote, the grow-your-own provision got the ax. The study commission, naturally, was spared. The bill also creates a penalty for driving under the influence if a driver has a BAC of 0.05 or higher PLUS any trace of psychoactive chemicals in their system, plus a new crime of making hash oil from marijuana.

VTDigger’s headline calls it a “hollowed-out pot bill,” and that’s pretty much dead on.

The bill has to go through two more committees and the full House. If it gets that far, a conference committee would have to rationalize the two completely different bills. And the key lies in the makeup of such a committee.

Thus, the ultimate fate of legalization would be in the hands House and Senate leadership, who will choose the committee members. John Campbell leans against; Shap Smith is neutral but seems to be edging toward legalization. Governor Shumlin, of course, is strongly in favor of legalization.

It’s not unprecedented for the two chambers to pass very different versions of the same bill and have the conference committee take one side or the other — or come up with something completely different of its own. Legalization is not dead; but this week, it took two steps backward.

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3 thoughts on “Two steps back for legalized pot

  1. Walter Carpenter

    “The bill also creates a penalty for driving under the influence if a driver has a BAC of 0.05 or higher PLUS any trace of psychoactive chemicals in their system, plus a new crime of making hash oil from marijuana.”

    God, it’s always about the penalties. You’ve gotta crush people first, which is what the drug war has been about all along. More money for the states and the towns in the form of fines and so on, more jails looking for more inmates, more traffic stops, more chances to be pulled over now. I know some Marijuana legalization advocates who are beyond the pale of being furious over this. Maybe some heads are going to roll in the general election over this. I’ve even heard calls for Vermont to get a ballot initiative. While this is probably fantasy, people are that infuriated over it.

    Reply
  2. Dave Katz

    Yeah. Liberals. Who the f*ck needs ’em? At least the other side is clearly what they are–fascists to your face, and not spouting namby-pamby platitudinous bullshit that provides cover for their authoritarian impulse, while simultaneously sharing their more demented brethren’s zeal for toadying up to the rich and/or powerful elites…. .

    Reply
  3. H. Brooke Paige

    Everything created in the “Golden Bubble” must have so many bells and whistles that nobody can figure out what is going on or what effect it will have.

    How about, for now, legalizing personal possession of small amounts (at home up to 2 or 3 oz., and 1/2 oz. on the person when “out and about”), allow limited home cultivation for personal use (possibly up to 6 plants ?).and call it a win for this year – a modest step beyond decriminalization ?

    The plan they cooked up on the Senate side created a boutique industry placed in the hands of “well healed” insiders seeking to cultivate GMO created product in high-tech grow houses and sold the through pricy outlets where the product would be sold like fine wine with lots of marketing hype and lounges to try out the goods like the vineyards provide for their tastings. Is it any wonder that the skeptics of legalization have found lots “not to like” in the current legislative scheme !

    Once the dust clears, the legislature could advance a limited small-scale commercialization effort next session.- one that creates a modest agriculture based producers with the production regulated and distributed using current tobacco or liquor outlets.

    Reply

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