On the very day Jeff Sessions opened the door to a federal cannabis crackdown, the Vermont House voted 83 to 61 in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis. Six days later on January 10, the Vermont Senate followed suit approving the bill with a voice vote. Governor Phil Scott vetoed a previous legalization bill that reached his desk last year, but the Republican said he'd sign this one.
Though he waited until the final day allowed for him to sign the bill, the governor made history today by signing it into law, making Vermont the first state to legalize recreational cannabis through its legislature.
The new law allows individuals to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and grow up to two mature plants without running afoul of state law. While it does not allow for recreational sales, new bills are currently in the works that would address cannabis commerce.
Bernie Sanders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are among the Vermont locals who are definitely celebrating today. The latter duo, better known as Ben & Jerry, told this writer the following in 2015: "The handwriting is on the wall that it is going to be legal…. It has been proven that marijuana is very efficacious as far as medicinal uses, and it is crazy not to allow that use. It has also been proven that recreational marijuana use is a lot safer and better for your body than alcohol. I think it is unconscionable that there is this drug war and prisons overflowing with people prosecuted for marijuana offenses."
The legalization of cannabis in Vermont is a clear rebuke to Sessions, whose threat did little to keep prohibition alive in the appropriately nicknamed Green Mountain State.
Next up? New Hampshire got a legalization bill through the House, though it's currently in committee and faces hurdles in the state senate and governor's office. This is, however, the most likely candidate for a second legislature-led legalization bill.
And to think, New England didn't have a single state with legal recreational cannabis before the November 2016 election.