Vermont Defies Jeff Sessions in Vote to Legalize Marijuana

Despite the news that the Justice Department will remove policy set forth by the Cole Memo protecting state legal marijuana businesses from federal prosecutors, Vermont still plans to legalize adult-use marijuana. The Vermont House of Representatives approved a bill to legalize cannabis shortly after Jeff Sessions’ announcement yesterday.

Defiance of Jeff Sessions is reverberating around the country, but no defiance has been as loud as Vermont’s. Voters have had to force the legalization of cannabis in the ballot box in every state that has permitted adult-use marijuana, but Vermont will be the first state where elected officials are going to get it done.

The Vermont House of Representatives voted 83 to 61 Thursday in favor of a bill that would fully legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and allow individuals to grow up to six marijuana plants at home.

The bill is expected to win approval in the Senate, which passed a nearly identical version last year. The state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, has already said he is “comfortable” with the legislation and has signaled he’d sign it.

If that happens it would make Vermont the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the legislature, rather than via a statewide ballot initiative. But Thursday’s House vote was significant for another reason: Just hours earlier, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the removal of long-standing federal protections for state-legal recreational marijuana programs.

Lawmakers in the Vermont Senate, which is poised to take up the bill next week, were similarly defiant. “Apparently, [Sessions is] more troubled by an 80-year-old using medical marijuana to treat a terminal health condition than he is by coordinating election strategy with Russians,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe.

There is a possibility that Governor Phil Scott could veto the bill, he has done it before but has assured the people that he is now comfortable with legalization in Vermont. Do you think that Jeff Sessions’s decision to aggressively scare legal cannabis businesses will change Governor Scott’s decision?

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