By Guy Page
The Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee has been discussing a bill to tax and regulate marijuana. A similar House bill, H.196, was introduced today and referred to the General, Housing & Military Affairs Committee. The bills differ mainly on how much tax would be raised.
S.54 was introduced Jan. 24 and has been in discussion by Senate Judiciary for about two weeks. Thursday morning, the committee “marked up” S.54, the term used for making final changes before voting on a bill as a committee. No vote has been scheduled, but a committee vote early next week is likely.
S.54 is sponsored by 15 senators: Sens. Dick Sears, Tim Ashe, Joe Benning, Chris Pearson, John Rodgers, Jeanette White, Rebecca Balint, Phil Baruth, Brian Campion, Allison Clarkson, Ann Cummings, Ruth Hardy, Cheryl Hooker, Andy Perchlik, and Richard Westman. As introduced, features include:
- Creation of full-time, five-member Cannabis Control Board to oversee regulation and operation, with support from an Executive Director and staff. Each member shall be paid 1/3 salary of a superior court judge.
- No required funding for prevention and education
- Municipalities must secure majority decision by voters before excluding retail cannabis operations. They may also establish a local cannabis commission.
- Licensees do not need to be VT residents, although residents are given priority
- There are five types of licenses: cultivator, product manufacturer, 15 wholesaler, retailer, and testing laboratory.
- Cannabis is taxed at ten cents with potential one cent local option tax for municipalities with retailer. I believe the 10 cent tax replaces the current sales tax, and is not in addition to it.
- Would take effect Jan. 1 2021.
- Bans consumption in public places (similar to alcohol).
- Repeals current Medical Marijuana law but permits MM dispensaries to continue.
H.196 is sponsored by Reps. Samuel Young, Peter Anthony, Scott Beck, Matthew Birong, Thomas Bock, Mollie Burke, R. Scott Campbell, James Carroll, Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, Kevin Christie, Brian Cina, Sara Coffey, Selene Colburn, Harold “Hal” Colston, Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, Mari Cordes, Johannah Donovan, Diana Gonzalez, Sandy Haas, Nader Hashim, Matthew Hill, Philip Hooper, Robert Hooper, Warren Kitzmiller, Diane Lanpher, Paul Lefebvre, Michael McCarthy, Curtis McCormack, James McCullough, Michael Mrowicki, Logan Nicoll, William Notte, Daniel Noyes, John O’Brien, Jean O’Sullivan, Kelly Pajala, Avram Patt, Barbara Rachelson, Zachariah Ralph, Robin Scheu, Brian Smith, Trevor Squirrell, Thomas Stevens, Mary Sullivan, Randall Szott, Matthew Trieber, Joseph “Chip” Troiano, Tommy Walz, Rebecca White, Theresa Wood, David Yacovone and Michael Yantachka.
Retail marijuana shops would be open in 2021. H.196 would set taxes at 20 cents — 11 cents excise, 6 cents sales tax, three cents local option. The Governor’s Marijuana Commission says any legalization of retail marijuana sales should be taxed at about 26 cents, to pay for the new regulatory apparatus and the added education, prevention, and law enforcement that will be needed. Vermont retail legalization is expected to raise between $10 million and $20 million in tax revenue.
Lead sponsor Young reportedly told VT Digger he does not expect the bill to have enough support to over-ride a veto, and therefore negotiation with Gov. Scott will be required for passage.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.