BENNINGTON — A local state senator hopes the Vermont House will take up some form of marijuana legalization bill this coming session.
Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said Tuesday that the Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee will hold extra meetings this year to discuss numerous issues surrounding marijuana, among them the availability of medical marijuana.
Normally, the committee meets six times during the political "off-season" to discuss various issues related to the judiciary, but these extra six sessions will be solely devoted to marijuana related topics, said Sears, who is the committee's chairman.
The first meeting will be at the State House in Montpelier on Sept. 12 and will focus on the history of marijuana and its legal status. Sears said future meetings will concern things like access to medical marijuana and screening for DUI.
Last session, the Senate passed a legalization bill, but it was defeated in the House. Sears said he feels there was a great deal of miscommunication going around about the bill, and that the anti-legalization camp found an ally in those who were pro-legalization but who were not happy with the Senate's proposed regulations on cultivation and sale.
"They wanted to be able to grow marijuana and sell it at the local farm stand like you would tomatoes," Sears said.
He said there was support for a legalization bill in the House, but many members had issues with the Senate's version.
"My hope is that the House will take a look at it this time and work on a bill," he said.
Sears said he had a number of people in Bennington County speak to him who were interested in starting a marijuana business. The scale would have depended on what the legalization bill allowed.
He said he is not sure if the House will take up a marijuana legalization bill this coming session, which begins in January.
The Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee is made up of five Senate members and five House members. Besides Sears, it includes: Rep. Alice Emmons, D-Windsor 3-2; Sen. Tim Ashe, a Democrat/Progressive from Chittenden County; Republican Sen. Dustin Degree, of Franklin County; Sen. Peg Flory, a Republican from Rutland County; Rep. Maxine Grad, D-Washington 7; Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Windsor-Rutland; Rep. Mary Hooper, D-Washington 4; Sen. Virginia "Ginny" Lyons, of Chittenden County; and Rep. Butch Shaw, R-Rutland 6.
— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115