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Lawmakers seek consensus on regulated marijuana measure

Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 6:22 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2020 at 4:07 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - A group of Vermont lawmakers met Wednesday to continue work on a bill that would create a legal cannabis market in the Green Mountain State.

The House and Senate approved versions of the bill are very similar but a conference committee is now working on a final version. Lawmakers disagree with a few sections in the bill, one of them dealing with roadway safety.

The House version includes a primary seat belt law provision. Currently, Vermont has a secondary seat belt law for adults drivers and passengers, where they can only be ticketed if police observe another traffic violation.

Senate lawmakers say they’re confused as to why a seat belt law is in the pot bill and also say it would create greater racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

“In the middle of Black Lives Matter conversations this does exactly the opposite of what we would hope a bill like this would be doing -- to bring some sort of racial justice into this picture,” said Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia County.

The House and Senate are also split on whether towns should be able to opt out of sales.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, has indicated he will support a tax-and-regulate market for marijuana only if the bill includes a provision allowing for saliva tests for impaired drivers.

The conference committee will pick up the negotiations again on Monday.

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