- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2018

Vermont’s legislature moved to legalize possession and home cultivation of marijuana Thursday evening within hours of Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding Obama-era pot policies.

The Vermont House of Representatives voted 81 to 63 in favor of a bill legalizing recreational marijuana, sending it back to the Democratic-controlled state Senate where a similar version already passed.

The Vermont Senate could vote on the bill as early as next Tuesday, The Associated Press reported, and Republican Gov. Phil Scott previously said he’ll sign it if and when it lands on his desk.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Vermont may soon become the ninth state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, and the first to do so with its legislative body rather than a voter referendum.

“Vermont is poised to make history by becoming the first state to legalize marijuana cultivation and possession legislatively, rather than by ballot initiative,” said Matt Simon, the New England policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest cannabis reform group.

“We applaud lawmakers for heeding the calls of their constituents and taking this important step toward treating marijuana more like alcohol,” he said in a statement.

If passed in the state Senate and signed into law by Mr. Scott as expected, the bill, H. 511, will allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to an an ounce of marijuana and grow up to four immature and two mature cannabis plants effective July 2018.

The bill would not establish a system for retail marijuana sales, but Mr. Scott created a commission last year tasked with studying the possibility of taxing and regulating the plant in order to eventually establish a commercial cannabis marketplace. That group is expected to make its recommendations later this month.

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Vermont followed suit in 2004, and medical marijuana laws are currently on the books in 29 states and Washington, D.C.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, and the state opened the nation’s first retail pot dispensaries in January 2014. Eight states and D.C. currently have recreational marijuana laws in place, but only six of them currently permit commercial sales: Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state.

Marijuana is considered illegal by the Department of Justice, though the Obama administration adopted policies that allowed states to pass their own weed laws without risking federal intervention.

President Trump’s attorney general, Mr. Sessions, issued a memorandum earlier Thursday calling those policies “unnecessary” and said they were rescinded immediately, casting uncertainties concerning the future of the states’ medical and recreational marijuana laws.

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