After the movement to legalize marijuana scored several victories in New England, pot proponents have come up against unexpected stumbling blocks in New Hampshire and Vermont.
In Vermont the recreational use of marijuana has been legal for almost a year, but the recreational marijuana law that took effect July 1 has no mechanism to sell the substance legally or to regulate the market. The Vermont Senate passed a tax-and-regulate proposal earlier this session, but it won’t be acted upon in the House before January. Meanwhile, a legalization bill in New Hampshire could end up similarly delayed.
Vermont Democratic State Sen. Dick Sears, a longtime proponent of marijuana legalization and more recently of establishing a tax-and-regulate system, said he’s frustrated by what he sees as a lack of urgency in the House.
He said the lack of an above-board system is driving a black market for marijuana and that there’s no way to be sure what is in the marijuana being sold illegally in the state.
“We need to get a tax-and-regulated system as soon as possible, not necessarily for the money, but to at least regulate what people are using for a drug,” Sears said on Friday.
Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson has said the chamber doesn’t have time to deal with the issue before adjournment, expected within the next few days.
Vermont’s Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who supported the legalization proposal last year, has said he’s concerned about highway safety, and he’d like to see some effective way to measure impairment of drivers who use marijuana. He hasn’t said whether he would sign a bill setting up a tax and regulation system if one reaches his desk.