Missing Out On Profits
Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe stated lawmakers in his room will fast-track legislation that could create a retail market for cannabis earnings in Vermont, but House Speaker Mitzi Johnson stated she is not convinced Vermonters are ready for a tax-and-regulate system.
This past year, lawmakers legalized possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana. But Ashe said Vermont remains missing out on earnings out of cannabis sales.
“While we’ve legalized the behaviour of tens of thousands of Vermonters, we are losing out to the ancillary benefits that could accrue to some formal, secure, regulated system,” Ashe said.
And Ashe stated he does not want Senate committees for”bogged down” for weeks with cannabis legislation.
“And therefore my hope is that the committees will do their due diligence but proceed fast and send a bill to the House,” Ashe said.
“While we have legalized the behaviour of tens of thousands of Vermonters, we are losing out to the ancillary benefits that could accrue to a formal, safe, regulated system.”
Historically, it’s the House at which tax-and-regulate legislation has become resistance. And its own path to approval in 2019 won’t be smooth.
“You understand, I am really wrapped on it,” said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson.
Johnson stated there are a few benefits to some tax-and-regulate version, namely quality control of cannabis products that would come with state supervision. But she said the state is less than a year to some law that legalized possession and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis.
“And I would like to know what effect that is having on use, on highway safety, on just awareness of these risks,” Johnson said. “And I really don’t think a tax-and-regulate system is something to rush to.”
“I wish to learn what effect that is having on usage, on highway safety, on just awareness of the risks. And I don’t believe a tax-and-regulate strategy is something to rush into.” — House Speaker Mitzi Johnson
With the introduction of retail cannabis shops in Massachusetts late last year, Ashe said many Vermonters are already participating in a tax-and-regulate system.
“So Vermonters are currently driving down there, buying it coming back to Vermont, utilizing it legally,” Ashe said. “But every one of the dollars offered for general health and other investments are likely to Massachusetts, and not Vermont.”
Ashe said that should fuel some urgency to get a similar statutory framework in Vermont.
But even if House lawmakers can muster majority support for a tax-and-regulate invoice, it’s far from certain to become law. Gov. Phil Scott has stated he will not support a retail market for cannabis revenue until the nation has a roadside evaluation to ascertain marijuana handicap.
That technology does not exist right now, and it’s not likely to arrive before lawmakers adjourn after this spring.