MONTPELIER – The Vermont House of Representatives has delayed a vote on marijuana legalization as Democratic leaders agreed to send the bill to another round of reviews. The additional scrutiny is focused on preventing teen marijuana use.

Rep. Chip Conquest, D-Newbury, presented the legalization bill on the floor of the House and argued it was time for Vermont to examine cultural assumptions about marijuana.

“Continuing to prohibit the personal use of a substance that poses little risk to public safety, and objectively less overall risk than other legal substances, is antithetical to a free society, which must, to remain free, have a rational justification for infringing on the freedom of its citizens,” Conquest said.

EARLIER: VT marijuana legalization bill heads to House floor

H.170 would legalize the possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana and the cultivation of several plants by people who are least 21 years old. The bill would not create a taxed or regulated market.

Conquest said H.170 would create a place “where people are free to conduct their own affairs as they see fit, so long as they’re not bothering anyone else.”

“Surely, that’s the Vermont way,” said Conquest, the vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that supported the bill by an 8-3 vote.

Rep. Laura Sibilia, I-Dover, asked for the bill to be sent to the Human Services Committee, which is responsible for drug prevention bills. Sibilia said her teenage son is actively involved in drug and alcohol prevention efforts at his school, and she wanted to see a closer examination of youth prevention under a legal marijuana system. The House agreed by voice vote.

The surprise turn came after House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, called a Democratic caucus just before the scheduled debate on the bill.

Krowinski said Democratic leaders were working to ensure that H.170 had “full support and full vetting,” and they decided to support sending the bill to committee after many conversations with House Democrats.

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a longtime supporter of marijuana legalization, posted on Twitter after the vote, “Disappointed…but playing long ball.”

House Human Services Chairwoman Ann Pugh, D-South Burlington, said she was committed to taking testimony on the bill, but likely would not have time to discuss it this week. She declined to say whether she supported legalization.

“My job as a chair is to make sure that all voices and all perspectives feel that they have an opportunity to be heard and will be heard,” Pugh said.

By coincidence, the Human Services Committee was scheduled to visit a Montpelier medical marijuana dispensary Wednesday morning.

Contact April McCullum at 802-660-1863 or amccullum@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @April_McCullum. 

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