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WIRE: Vermont House approves marijuana regulation study

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The Vermont House of Representatives approved a bill on Tuesday (77-68) after amending it to initiate the development of a system for regulating marijuana for adult use. The revised measure will now go to the Senate for concurrence.

As amended, H. 858 would establish a commission tasked with “propos[ing] a comprehensive regulatory and revenue structure that establishes controlled access to marijuana in a manner that, when compared to the current illegal marijuana market, increases public safety and reduces harm to public health.” The commission would be required to provide its recommendations to the legislature by the end of the year.

“This bill does not change current marijuana penalties, but it will move Vermont further toward enacting sensible marijuana regulation laws,” said Matt Simon, the Montpelier-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Lawmakers are plainly acknowledging that prohibition has failed, and we appreciate their efforts to move the state in a more sensible direction. Marijuana prohibition has been the law of the land for decades, so it’s going to take time to transition to a new system.

“It’s time for Vermont to focus on how, not whether, to regulate marijuana for adult use,” Simon said. “We are asking that the Senate concur with the House so that this commission can get formed and hit the ground running.”

In February, Vermont Public Radio released the results of a poll conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute that found 55% of Vermonters support passing a law to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. Only 32% said they are opposed. Gov. Peter Shumlin, Attorney General William Sorrell, and two former attorneys general have expressed support for the measure.

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