Vermont’s Legislature has become the first in the nation to approve a recreational marijuana legalization bill.
Vermont's bill, which would legalize small amounts of marijuana possession in 2018 and anticipate the possibility of a taxed and regulated legal marijuana market, was approved by the Vermont House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 79-66. The bill has already been passed by the Senate and will go directly to Gov. Phil Scott.
Other states have legalized marijuana following a voter referendum, but no state has yet legalized marijuana solely through the legislative process, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Legalization advocates said bills were pending in other state legislatures.
"I think it reflects that Vermont elected officials are more in touch with our constituents than a lot of elected officials in other states," said Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, who has worked on marijuana issues for the majority of his political career. "I think the public is ahead of us, but elected officials tend to be cautious when it comes to change."
Wednesday's vote closed a divisive debate over legalization, particularly in the House, that once prompted Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe to predict that legalization would take a "miracle" to pass this year. Advocates hugged and shared high-fives outside the two chambers after the vote.