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Vermont senator looks to revive legal marijuana prospects

Cory Dawson, Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- A state senator is making a new push to legalize marijuana, but she doesn't expect the proposal will become law before lawmakers go home in early May.

Democratic Sen. Jeanette White plans to use a procedural move to reintroduce a legalization plan she sponsored from last year's lawmaking session. White wants to add to an unrelated House bill an amendment that includes the language from last year's plan, legalizing marijuana and creating a regulated seed-to-sale market.

A House bill that would remove penalties for personal marijuana use and allow small growing operations but not create a regulated market looked to have the best chance of passing in Vermont this year. But the full House didn't have the votes to approve it, and it was sent back to the committee level, where it is stalling.

"It's the end of the session," White said, "and clearly we're not going to get anything from the House, so we need to have something."

The amendment is nearly identical to last year's proposal, White said, with a few small changes, including shifting the oversight responsibility for the legal marijuana market from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Agriculture.

White's plan is to have the proposal ready for next session, when it can be picked up as lawmakers return to the statehouse in January, in the second half of the two-year lawmaking session. She said she expects to introduce the amendment as early as Thursday.

Democratic Sen. Dick Sears said he will soon introduce a measure that would create a study committee to look at how Vermont could effectively tax and regulate marijuana.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott has said he isn't opposed to legalizing marijuana. But he has said any legalization legislation would have to address key public safety concerns, including making sure police can test for impairment.