On Pot Legalization, Shumlin Wants A House Vote, Not A Statewide Referendum

Apr 29, 2016
Originally published on April 29, 2016 11:25 am

Gov. Peter Shumlin wants House Speaker Shap Smith to bring a bill legalizing marijuana to the House floor for a vote, but Smith says he's not going to do this at this time because there's not nearly enough support in the House to pass the legislation.

The Senate and the House have taken very different approaches to the legalization of marijuana.

The Senate bill creates a regulatory structure for the sale of marijuana at retail outlets across the state.

Several House committees have rejected this approach and they favor a plan that allows for the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana.

Smith has suggested that a possible compromise would be to hold a non-binding statewide referendum on this issue in November as a way to better gauge public opinion.

Shumlin says he's not interested in the referendum plan. Instead, he wants a vote in the House.

“I think the Senate passed an excellent bill. I think the majority of Vermonters want a smart legalization policy – that's what the Senate passed,” Shumlin says. “The Ways and Means committee in the House passed a good bill. It's beyond me why the Speaker doesn't put the bill on the floor to be voted by the Legislature."

Speaker Smith says there's a good reason why he's not bringing the Senate bill to the floor for a vote.

“I can tell you that based on the counting that we have done, if the Senate bill is in that conference report it will lose and it will lose badly,” Smith says.

Senate President John Campbell voted against the legalization bill in the Senate.

Campbell says he also opposes the non-binding referendum plan because the issue is too complicated to be presented to voters in a referendum ballot.

“We don't have a referendum state, so I do not support any type of referendum,” Campbell says.  “I think that that would actually muddy the waters because … that's where the complicated issues come in. And so I just think it would be very difficult for us, through a referendum, to really work through those details."

This referendum approach was last used in 1976 when Vermonters overwhelmingly supported a plan to create the state lottery.

Campbell also says he's determined not to let disagreements over the future of the marijuana bill extend the session beyond a week from Saturday.

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