Vermont Passes Legal Weed, But Don’t Expect Stores To Pop Up

The Vermont legislature passed marijuana legalization and Republican Gov. Phil Scott has promised to sign the bill into law, Fox News reported Wednesday.

While the bill allows individuals to grow and use small amounts of marijuana, it does not create a tax or regulatory system for a legal marijuana industry, meaning cannabis stores will still be illegal, Fox reported. The Vermont House approved the bill last week, and the Senate passed the bill by voice vote Wednesday. The bill will take effect on July 1.

“Today the Vermont Senate moved Vermont one step closer to a rational approach to marijuana,” Democrat Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, said in a statement. “Tens of thousands of Vermonters will no longer feel like they’re committing a crime for their private, responsible use of marijuana.”

Residents can now carry one ounce of marijuana and grow two mature or four immature cannabis plants in their home.

Vermont is now the ninth state to legalize marijuana and the first to pass such a law by votes in the legislature rather than a referendum by the populace. Many lawmakers and marijuana enthusiasts want the legislation to go further and establish a regulatory and tax system to legalize a fully-fledged cannabis industry in the state. Washington, D.C., is the only other jurisdiction  to legalize marijuana use but maintain an effective ban on retail sales of the drug.

“A lot of work has taken place, but we’re still not there yet,” Democrat Sen. Richard Sears said. “I don’t think we’re there until we see a tax and regulated system.”

The bill came just days after Attorney General Jeff Session rescinded an Obama-era guidance instructing federal prosecutors to avoid enforcing the federal marijuana ban in states that have legalized the drug. Federal prosecutors are now encouraged to fully enforce the ban on the states, but some experts believe there is little reason to worry.

“Vermont in particular doesn’t care very much what the attorney general thinks,” Matt Simon, New England political director for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, told NBC News. “With the way this bill is written, having a few plants, there’s nothing that the feds could do even if they wanted to.”

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