Regional Legalization Efforts Stall As Legislative Priorities Shift
The coronavirus pandemic has stalled legalization and reform efforts in the short term as state and federal lawmakers deal with more pressing public-health and economic issues.
Vermont’s long-awaited adult use sales bill, S.54, passed the Senate and headed to the House before the General Assembly transitioned to remote hearings in March.
Vermont legalized cannabis in 2018, but only for home cultivation, possession and consumption. A joint Committee of Conference composed of three legislators from each chamber was called for “members to discuss their differences and to agree on a bill that will be presented to both chambers for a vote,” according to the Assembly’s website.
Bill author and Committee of Conference delegate Senator Dick Sears, noted that the legislature adjourned shortly after the committee was appointed, due to COVID-19, and that the Senate Judiciary Committee would be meeting only on COVID-related matters. “If and when we get a green light to continue to work on House bills and conference committees, the conference committee may meet” regarding S54.
Recreational marijuana legalization in New York is on the shelf for now, and a number of voter initiatives in states across the country won’t make the November ballot because the outbreak is preventing groups from collecting the signatures they need.
But industry officials and advocates believe the pandemic might have some positive long-term impacts in moving state legalization and federal marijuana reform efforts forward.
That’s in part because the outbreak has led many states to formally classify cannabis as an “essential” business, tacitly if not directly recognizing the medical benefits of cannabis and the need for wide public access.