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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:

THE PROCESS

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.”

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

Date
5/10/2017 2:18 PM
Total Yes
79
Total No
66
Total Absent
4
Pass/Fail
Pass
Journal Page
5/10/2017 HJ 76 P. 2452
MEMBER VOTE
Ainsworth of Royalton Nay
Ancel of Calais Yea
Bancroft of Westford Nay
Bartholomew of Hartland Yea
Baser of Bristol Yea
Batchelor of Derby Nay*
Beck of St. Johnsbury Nay
Belaski of Windsor Yea
Beyor of Highgate Nay
Bissonnette of Winooski Nay
Bock of Chester Yea
Botzow of Pownal Yea
Brennan of Colchester Nay
Briglin of Thetford Nay
Browning of Arlington Nay
Brumsted of Shelburne Nay
Buckholz of Hartford Yea
Burditt of West Rutland Yea
Burke of Brattleboro Yea
Canfield of Fair Haven Nay
Carr of Brandon Yea
Chesnut-Tangerman of Middletown Springs Yea
Christensen of Weathersfield Yea
Christie of Hartford Nay
Cina of Burlington Yea*
Colburn of Burlington Yea
Condon of Colchester Yea
Conlon of Cornwall Yea
Connor of Fairfield Yea
Conquest of Newbury Yea
Copeland-Hanzas of Bradford Yea
Corcoran of Bennington Yea
Cupoli of Rutland City Nay
Dakin of Colchester Nay
Deen of Westminster Absent
Devereux of Mount Holly Nay
Dickinson of St. Albans Town Nay
Donahue of Northfield Nay
Donovan of Burlington Yea
Dunn of Essex Yea
Emmons of Springfield Yea
Fagan of Rutland City Nay
Feltus of Lyndon Nay
Fields of Bennington Yea
Forguites of Springfield Yea
Frenier of Chelsea Nay
Gage of Rutland City Nay
Gamache of Swanton Nay
Gannon of Wilmington Yea
Gardner of Richmond Yea
Giambatista of Essex Yea
Gonzalez of Winooski Yea
Grad of Moretown Yea
Graham of Williamstown Nay
Greshin of Warren Yea
Haas of Rochester Yea
Harrison of Chittenden Nay
Head of South Burlington Yea
Hebert of Vernon Nay
Helm of Fair Haven Nay
Higley of Lowell Nay
Hill of Wolcott Yea
Hooper of Montpelier Yea
Hooper of Randolph Yea
Houghton of Essex Yea
Howard of Rutland City Nay*
Hubert of Milton Nay
Jessup of Middlesex Yea
Jickling of Randolph Yea
Johnson of South Hero Not Voting
Joseph of North Hero Nay
Juskiewicz of Cambridge Nay
Keefe of Manchester Nay
Keenan of St. Albans City Nay
Kimbell of Woodstock Yea
Kitzmiller of Montpelier Yea
Krowinski of Burlington Yea
LaClair of Barre Town Nay
LaLonde of South Burlington Yea
Lanpher of Vergennes Nay
Lawrence of Lyndon Nay
Lefebvre of Newark Yea
Lewis of Berlin Absent
Lippert of Hinesburg Yea
Long of Newfane Yea
Lucke of Hartford Yea*
Macaig of Williston Yea
Marcotte of Coventry Nay
Martel of Waterford Nay
Masland of Thetford Yea
McCormack of Burlington Yea
McCoy of Poultney Nay
McCullough of Williston Yea
McFaun of Barre Town Nay
Miller of Shaftsbury Yea
Morris of Bennington Yea
Morrissey of Bennington Nay
Mrowicki of Putney Yea
Murphy of Fairfax Absent
Myers of Essex Nay
Nolan of Morristown Nay
Norris of Shoreham Nay
Noyes of Wolcott Yea
O’Sullivan of Burlington Yea
Ode of Burlington Nay
Olsen of Londonderry Yea
Parent of St. Albans Town Nay
Partridge of Windham Yea
Pearce of Richford Nay
Poirier of Barre City Nay
Potter of Clarendon Nay
Pugh of South Burlington Nay
Quimby of Concord Nay
Rachelson of Burlington Yea
Rosenquist of Georgia Nay
Savage of Swanton Nay
Scheu of Middlebury Yea
Scheuermann of Stowe Nay
Sharpe of Bristol Yea
Shaw of Pittsford Nay
Sheldon of Middlebury Yea
Sibilia of Dover Yea
Smith of Derby Nay
Smith of New Haven Nay
Squirrell of Underhill Yea
Stevens of Waterbury Yea*
Strong of Albany Nay
Stuart of Brattleboro Yea
Sullivan of Burlington Yea
Sullivan of Dorset Yea
Taylor of Colchester Nay
Terenzini of Rutland Town Nay
Till of Jericho Nay
Toleno of Brattleboro Yea
Toll of Danville Nay
Townsend of South Burlington Yea
Trieber of Rockingham Yea
Troiano of Stannard Yea
Turner of Milton Nay
Van Wyck of Ferrisburgh Nay
Viens of Newport City Nay
Walz of Barre City Yea
Webb of Shelburne Yea
Weed of Enosburgh Yea
Willhoit of St. Johnsbury Absent
Wood of Waterbury Yea*
Wright of Burlington Nay
Yacovone of Morristown Yea
Yantachka of Charlotte Yea
Young of Glover Yea

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