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Taxes & Opting In (Or Out) Of Pot Shops: Vermont's Retail Marijuana Bill

A shopper buys marijuana with a contact-less payment method at a marijuana retailer.
"Vermont Edition" gets the latest on the bill that aims to allow for legal sales of marijuana in the state. The House and Senate bills have key differences to reconcile before the bill could go to before the Governor.

A legal cannabis marketplace in Vermont, and what it would look like, has been debated for years. Now both the House and Senate have approved bills that would tax and regulate marijuana growers, processors and retailers. We talk with lawmakers and other stakeholders about the bill, possible marijuana taxes, whether towns should "opt in" or "opt out" of potential pot shops and more.

The bill, S.54, passed the Senate in 2019. In late February, House lawmakers approved a revised bill. Key differences between the two bills—like tax rates, local option taxes and more—will have to be hammered out in both the House and the Senate before it could go to Gov. Phil Scott's desk.

Our guests are:

Despite both the Senate and House bills being largely similar, key differences still need to be hammered out.
The House bill requires Vermont towns to vote before allowing cannabis sales. Under the Senate bill, towns would only vote if they want to opt out of local sales.

A Senate provision allowing a 2% local option tax was removed from the House bill, meaning just how much cannabis would ultimately be taxed as another difference to work out.

Sen. Rodgers says he wants to keep any potential cannabis tax as low as possible.

“We have to keep the costs down otherwise, we don’t achieve our objective," he tells Vermont Edition. "The black market will be able to undercut this heavily-regulated and taxed market, and that’s one of the things we’re trying to stay away from."

Lawmakers decide Wednesday, Mar. 11, on how they'll reconcile the differences between the two bills.

A conference committee of both House and Senate lawmakers will likely be required to draft a final bill that's essentially a compromise on the two bill's differences.

That composite bill would need to be passed again by both the House and the Senate before heading to the Governor's desk.

Listen to the full interview above to hear more about local taxes, roadside testing, regulation and other differences between the two chamber's cannabis bills.

Broadcast live on Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2020 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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