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Vt. House takes testimony on pot legalization - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. House takes testimony on pot legalization

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Public pot debate swirled through the Vermont Statehouse. Excitement surrounding the potential for legalization has been burning out lately under the Golden Dome.

Before the public took to the House floor Thursday night to express their opinions on this year's hot button social issue, representatives once again took testimony on marijuana legalization.

As the debate drags on, different groups of lawmakers are introduced to the same cast of characters from law enforcers to those already selling medicinal pot legally.

"We are committed to creating a culture of responsible cannabis use in Vermont," said Shayne Lynn, Champlain Valley Dispensary. 

Dispensary operators told lawmakers a legal recreational market would solve financial sustainability problems in Vermont's medical program and also suggested qualifying conditions should be expanded to cover conditions ranging from PTSD to opiate addiction.

While the legalization effort may be on life support, legislative efforts to regulate nicotine products are gaining momentum. The House voted in favor of extending tobacco taxes to products known as e-cigarettes.

Friday, the body will consider whether to increase the legal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. A similar question previously split the chamber with a 71-71 vote.

Divisions don't fall along party lines.

"It just chafes at me a little bit, I'm really not sure how I'm going to come down," said Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington. 

Pearson says there are merits to public health arguments in favor, but he also believes if one can die for their country one can decide whether to smoke.

An ardent supporter of cannabis legalization, Pearson says the tobacco debate does not undercut pot deliberations.

"I think it's a different consideration with tobacco, but clearly we're having a lot of these discussions," said Pearson.

Legalization's chances of passing will be better known next week when the first House committee to take up the issue votes.

Thursday night, pro and con speakers will alternate back and forth.

While passage seems unlikely, there's also a feeling around the building that next governor may not be as friendly to the issue and a new session means the debate may drag on for another two years.

Related Story:

Vermonters talk possible pot legalization at Statehouse

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