A long-awaited floor debate on the plan to legalize cannabis finally gets underway in the House today after lawmakers unexpectedly postponed discussion Monday night.
Launch VPR's live stream from the House Chamber in your audio player (above) to follow the debate.
House leaders insist they don’t have the votes to pass the full-blown legalization bill that the Senate approved in February. So what will House lawmakers do instead? Here are some of the options they could consider today:
- Expand decriminalization laws to include homegrown, and replace criminal charges with a civil citation for people caught cultivating up to two marijuana plants
- Create a task force of some kind to study to legalization in more depth, and come back to the Legislature next year with recommendations
- Allocate funds for a prevention and education program to curb usage rates among younger Vermonters and improve marijuana-related highway safety issues
It’s unclear whether the expanded decriminalization proposal has enough votes to succeed on the House floor. It’s also unclear whether the Senate and Shumlin administration would go along with that plan if it did.
Individual House lawmakers will likely offer other amendments today.
One thing that is clear: The debate today appears to be the last go-round for marijuana in 2016. With only a few days remaining in the session, there won’t be time for conference committees to iron out differences between the House and Senate proposals. That means that the Senate either has to grudgingly accept whatever the House comes up with today, and pass the bill to the governor, or the little that’s left of the legalization bill will go up in smoke.