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Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Buying And Selling Cannabis (Legally): How Vermont's Tax-And-Regulate Rules Are Shaping Up

a hand holding up a cannabis leaf
Lawmakers are drafting rules to regulate the cultivation, manufacture and sale of cannabis. But what Vermont's rules will be and if there's support to make them law remains an open question.

Last year Vermont legalized the possession and personal use of small amounts of marijuana. Now Vermont lawmakers are drafting rules for a legal and regulated system to buy, sell and grow cannabis. We're looking at what's being proposed for commercial cannabis in Vermont.

Bennington Sen. Dick Sears, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and primary  sponsor of S.54, says the bill outlines plans for a “cannabis control board” to set rules and license cannabis cultivation, testing, and retail sales across Vermont.

As the bill stands now, legal sales of cannabis wouldn't happen until April 2021.

Sears says the bill aspires to prioritize applicants who foster social justice, including those with nonviolent drug offenses on their records.

"Just don’t automatically disqualify somebody because they have a record," Sears says. "That’s what we’re saying. Folks that were left behind by the war on cannabis and other drugs need to be accounted for in this bill."

The Senate bill would include a 10 percent tax on all cannabis sales. An additional one percent tax could be levied by towns and cities. All cannabis sales would be exempt from Vermont's 6 percent sales tax.

A similar proposal in the House, H.196, proposes higher state and local taxes on cannabis. It would also allow medical cannabis dispensaries to start selling to the general public as early as January 2020.

Listen to the full interview with Sen. Sears above to hear more about the commercial cannabis bill, and from Karen Lounsbury, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology at the UVM Larner College of Medicine and co-director for the medical cannabis course, who discusses the public health impacts of marijuana legalization in states like Colorado.

Broadcast live on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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