Vermont Will Be First State to Legalize Recreational Weed Through Legislation - NBC Southern California
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Vermont Will Be First State to Legalize Recreational Weed Through Legislation

Once the bill is signed, Vermont will become the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, following its New England neighbors in Massachusetts and Maine

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    Vermont is poised to become the first state in the country to approve the recreational use of marijuana by an act of the Legislature rather than through a citizen referendum.

    The state Senate approved the legislation Wednesday by voice vote. Republican Gov. Phil Scott has indicated he will sign the bill, which was approved by the House last week. It's unclear when that signing will take place.

    The bill would allow adults over 21 to possess of up to one ounce of marijuana and have two mature marijuana plants or four immature plants. The legislation does not contain a mechanism to regulate the production and sale of marijuana, as has been done in some other states.

    Some backers of the proposal call it a baby step and say they hope the Legislature will pass a tax-and-regulation system.

    Scott vetoed a marijuana legalization bill last May, but indicated he only did so because of the bill's timing.

    Fifty-seven percent of Vermont voters support legal marijuana for adults, according to a March 2017 Public Policy Polling survey.

    Once the bill is signed, Vermont will become the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, following its New England neighbors in Massachusetts and Maine.

    "Vermonters should be proud that their state is becoming the first to do this legislatively, rather than by ballot initiative," said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

    Legislatures in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island are also considering bills that would make marijuana legal for adults this year; New Hampshire's House approved a bill on Tuesday.

    The Vermont Senate's vote comes amid growing concerns over the future of legal weed after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era Justice Department memo that allowed the legal marijuana industry to flourish in states that had approved it.

    "Now that yet another state has rejected marijuana prohibition, there is even more pressure for Congress to take action to prevent any federal interference from Attorney General Jeff Sessions," said Matthew Schweich, interim executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "It's time for the federal government to respect the authority of states to determine their own marijuana practices."