Harrington: Here’s What You Need to Know For Today’s Vermont Legalization Vote
WINOOSKI, Vt. — Last night I hosted our first Heady Livestream of 2018, where I was joined by Mansfield Provisions, a great new Vermont startup who will be the title sponsors of our upcoming “SKI-BD” event on January 20, 2018 at Burke Mountain. Details and discounts ($40 lift tix and $199 ski + stay including hotel room + two lift tix) online here.
After I spoke to Kyle and Derek (hey Tim) about their backgrounds and Mansfield Provisions, I broke down the action from the first day of the legislative session in detail. Watch that discussion in full below and tune in next Monday, January 8 at 9pm for our next Heady Livestream.
Follow the action on twitter where I’ll be tweeting @HeadyVermont with live updates. Before you tune in next week, here’s what you need to know about today’s historic day in the Vermont legislature:
There are multiple amendments that will be proposed from the floor, where debate will start at 9:30am. You can listen to that discussion live on the Vermont Public Radio (VPR) House Livestream here.
This bill has been discussed and voted on by the House already, so at this point, the amendments that are proposed are either small details (as the Conquest amendment) or are strategically designed to kill the bill.
The House calendar lists the full descriptions of the posted amendments that will be discussed today, here’s a summary:
Rep. James Harrison (R-Chittenden) proposed an amendment that would change the effective date of the law from July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019 … the House is sick of this, don’t expect much/any action here.
Rep. George Till (D-Underhill) is one of the Chittenden County Democrats who has opposed legalization and voted against S.22 last year; his amendment has nothing to do with cannabis, but would change the smoking age to 21 years old … the House Judiciary Committee heard this amendment yesterday and voted unfavorably (mostly because tobacco is a separate issue) so it shouldn’t garner much support or take much time.
Rep. Chip Conquest (D-Newbury) was one of the co-sponsors of the bill and is the team player who you will hear responding to questions on the floor when asked about the committee’s decisions. His amendment is the only important one where there’s political consensus: it removes a line that would create a legislative tax and regulate commission. The Governor already has his, and while the legislature is certainly not done talking about tax and regulate, they’re eliminating this commission from this bill at the request of the Governor…this should pass and be adopted and is the most important amendment.
Rep. Anne Donohue (R-Northfield) is a steadfast opponent of legalization who in the past two years has spent hours trolling cannabis reform supporters on this issue by repeatedly offering minor amendments that exhaust legislators and distract from actual policy questions. This year her amendment would require adding the word “written” in front of the word “consent” to refer to the permission one would need from a landlord in order to legally grow at a dwelling the resident doesn’t own … this will take a few minutes and could pass, but it’s designed to distract and wear down the resolve of on-the-fence reps.
Rep. Cynthia Browning (D-Arlington) is the ultimate anti-legalization troll when it comes to discussing this issue on the House floor and proposing ridiculous amendments having previously spent cumulative hours describing her 1 plant = 10,000 joints math theorem. Her amendment this time is one she’s used in the past: it would change the wording so that the law would not go into effect until 90 days after the State Police have developed roadside test for marijuana … this will be the worst part of the morning session where all the anti-legalization people will cite absolutely ridiculous driving stats and work themselves into a fury. This could take the longest time, but is not expected to be adopted.
Rep. Don Turner (R-Milton) is the House Minority leader and has the most interesting amendment to offer as someone who staunchly opposes legalization and is the standard-bearer for the House Republicans. Rep Turner’s amendment is the most interesting as it calls for creating a tax and regulate system (similar to H.167 from last year if you were following along) that would license cultivators and cannabis businesses immediately. With fellow Republican Governor Phil Scott clearly not in favor of tax and regulate being passed until his commission reports in December 2018, this is most likely a tactic designed to peel off the moderate yes votes who support regulation more than legalization (like Rep. Jansen Wilhoit R-St. Johnsbury). There’s also the longer term game of getting a no vote on tax and regulate on the record … mayyyyybe after Governor Scott blamed House Republicans for last year’s veto (saying that they weren’t willing to suspend rules to take up legalization in special June session), Rep. Turner is pissed off enough that he’s thumbing his nose at the Governor with this amendment, but not likely. It’s much much more likely is that this smart tactician has a political goal to either sink legalization or get a no vote for tax and regulate on the record and is doing what he can as an outnumbered minority.
THE BILL ITSELF
There’s a great summary online on the House Judiciary Committee website here. It’s always worth acknowledging and appreciating the nonpartisan staff in the statehouse who make this information available and accessible online, usually before it’s discussed or immediately afterwards.
If you haven’t read that summary online yet, the quick facts:
- The bill will legalize the possession of up to one ounce of dried cannabis flower, or five grams of hash.
- The bill will legalize the cultivation of up to two mature plants (defined as plants with visible buds) or up to four immature plants per residence.
- Regardless of how many people live in a residence, only two mature/four immature plants can be grown; plants can be grown outside provided that it is in “an enclosure that is screened from public view and is secure so that access is limited to the cultivator and persons 21+ who have permission”.
- The bill will go into effect on July 1, 2018
- There will be new penalties, larger fines, and growing/possessing more than the legal amount can still be considered a felony … lots to dislike in here and many reasons to be concerned and support the ACLU.
THE VOTES WILL BE CLOSE:
Opponents have been busy working to find strategic ways to undermine the bill — like adding ‘poison pill’ amendments — as well as doubling down on the aggressive canvassing strategy. That strategy includes the anti-marijuana poster contest we reported on this week, in which Vermont K-12 students are being solicited and offered cash to create anti-legalization posters by the group “Physicians, Families, and Friends For a Better Vermont.”
— Heady Vermont (@HeadyVermont) January 3, 2018
The anti-cannabis reform lobby was also busy directly distributing the following handouts in representatives’ mailboxes:
If you’re wondering how your representative voted last time, below is the complete vote count from May 2017 when the House voted on an almost identical bill, which narrowly passed by a 79-66 vote. Stay tuned for the action today in real time on @HeadyVermont on twitter and Instagram.
Roll Call Vote Record
S.22 An act relating to eliminating penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana by adults 21 years of age and older
- 5/10/2017 2:18 PM
- Total Yes
- Total No
- Total Absent
- Journal Page
- 5/10/2017 HJ 76 P. 2452