Legislative Update – April 18, 2019

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Apr 19, 2019 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

Vermont State House in SpringMy Committee: House Judiciary

Juvenile Justice/Youthful Offender

S.133. This bill helps codify the circumstances in which a young offender will see his or her case sent to Family Court, instead of Criminal Court. The percentage of youthful offenders sent to Family Court can vary widely between different areas of the state. S.133 would help ensure young people in Vermont’s court system have a more standard and predictable path than many currently do and get the services they need while protecting public safety. Our Youthful Offender law recognizes that the collateral consequences of a criminal proceeding are not always in a youth’s best interests.

S.54: Cannabis Regulation

S.54: My committee is looking at the social justice issues in creating a legal cannabis marketplace, as well as clarifying that “gifting” is not legal in response to businesses selling items like tee-shirts and including free cannabis. We will also start work on highway safety issues related to impaired driving and the use of saliva testing for cannabis and other drugs. An update on the cannabis bill follows. 

Cannabis/Government Operations

For adults in Vermont, cannabis is a legal product. Each year, a significant number of Vermont adults choose to spend millions of dollars purchasing cannabis products from the illegal market or from our neighboring state of Massachusetts where there is a regulated market.

Vermont’s current law is awkward because it has legalized a product without creating safe, legal access to it. We have seen what this leads to with fentanyl-laced cannabis and a store in the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington being raided for “selling” cannabis products. The Attorney General recently changed his position to fully support the creation of a regulated market citing the need for consumer protection and an open, transparent and smart approach to public protection.

The path to S. 54 has been incremental and well informed. Since 2006, Vermont has taken a step-by-step approach to reform, starting with a medical cannabis law, creation of a regulated dispensary market, decriminalization and legalization. S.54 is grounded in this uniquely Vermont approach and benefits from the research conducted by the Governor’s Commission on Marijuana.

The key features of the bill as it left the Senate are listed below.

  • Consumer Protection
    • Mandatory third-party testing
    • Strict labeling requirements showing potency
    • Child resistant packaging
    • Bans on advertising that appeals to children, encourages overconsumption, and makes false claims
    • Ban on cannabis products bundled with non-cannabis products
    • Ban on cannabis products that include alcohol or tobacco
  • Strict Market Regulation
    • New, dedicated and expert regulatory body
    • Age 21 required to purchase or possess cannabis products
    • Seed to sale tracking regulations required (prevents diversion)
    • Constraints on the numbers of licenses a person can hold
    • Constraints favoring a small-scale business model
    • Criminal background checks for licensees
    • Ban on “gifting” for sales loophole
    • Security, health and safety regulations
  • Local Control
    • Voters in town may prohibit the operation of a cannabis establishment or a type of cannabis establishment
    • Town may create a local cannabis control commission (similar to local liquor control commission) for purposes of administering local permits
  • Social Equity & Justice
    • Priority to Vermont residents and small, local producers to ensure a diverse marketplace
    • Mandates one of the Control Board members have a background in social justice
    • Priority given to license applicants that provide good wages and benefits and recruit, retain and develop minorities, women or individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition
    • Priority to minority- and women-owned businesses
    • Priority to energy efficient and environmentally resilient businesses
  • Taxation
    • 16% excise tax to help undercut black market
    • 2% local option tax to help town with implementation

Commerce and Economic Development

The Committee is considering S.110 – An act relating to data privacy and consumer protection. It’s goal is to help protect the personal data of Vermonters, especially in this time of large data breaches. Of particular interest in this bill is how to protect the data privacy of K-12 students. Also, under consideration is H.298 – Act to create a Tourism Marketing Promotion Fund – and the need to promote our state’s tourism industry. Other economic development issues being discussed are flexible work environments and the needs of remote employment, including co-working spaces with high speed internet, located in walkable communities, and how this can benefit the social fabric of our rural and urban centers.

 

Please be in touch: [email protected] or 828-2228.