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Greetings from Montpelier, where the VT House will shortly begin debate on a bill to regulate #cannabis production and sale.

Audio livestream is available at @vprnet

Follow this thread for live commentary once debate begins.

#vtpoli
@vprnet They legislature is currently considering a bill requiring farmers to provide adequate shelter to livestock.

That will be followed by consideration of a bill on food concessions in government buildings.

Then cannabis.
@vprnet You can find the full text of the bill, and several proposed amendments, here: legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2020…
@vprnet Without debate, the House gives preliminary approval to the animal shelter bill.
@vprnet As legislators discuss the bill on food concessions, an explainer of the amendments on the House calendar:
@vprnet The Copeland-Hanzas amendment was the proposal from the Government Operations Committee last May.

It is being superseded by the first Gannon amendment, which is the Gov Ops Committee proposal from this year.
@vprnet That amendment is followed by the tax proposal from the Ways and Means committee.

And after that, the spending proposal from the Appropriations committee.
@vprnet That will then be followed by a series of proposed amendments from various members.

Each amendment will be debated separately.
@vprnet Discussions on the bill have begun.
@vprnet Rep. Copeland Hanzas moves to dispense with the May, 2019 Government Operations amendment, as it is superseded by the February, 2020 amendment. The motion is approved, and we move to the Gannon amendment.
@vprnet Rep. John Gannon begins by describing the history of #cannabis law reform in VT.

It's been a long path -- medical homegrow, followed years later by medical dispensaries, followed by decriminalization, followed by homegrow legalization.
@vprnet Gannon now pivots to the benefits of regulation. Independent testing, accurate labeling, and sellers that check ID.
@vprnet Gannon describes what the bill provides on roadside safety -- allowing police to obtain a warrant (signed by a judge) for saliva samples as an alternative to more invasive blood tests, and requiring PD's to train more LEO's in detection techniques.
@vprnet Now Gannon moves on to a section-by-section description of the 93 page bill.

Good time to grab a beverage if you're on the livestream.
@vprnet The bill would create a Cannabis Control Board to have primary oversight over the regulated cannabis market.

It would also create a (mostly volunteer) advisory panel to assist that board in various technical aspects.

The board would be appointed by the Gov, w legislative input
@vprnet Gannon describes the provisions regarding criminal background checks on license applicants and employees.

The bill says that people cannot be denied a license or work permit based on criminal histories unless they pose a *current* threat to public safety.
@vprnet (I really like this provision, by the way, because I wrote it.)
@vprnet Importantly, the bill requires that financiers submit to background checks, so that the Board can exclude organized crime from the system.
@vprnet Gannon now on to sections dealing with consumer safety. Retailers will need to offer consumers an information flier.

This is modeled on the City of San Francisco, which does a great job IMO.
@vprnet Gannon touches on one of the preferences for small growers: they will be allowed to sell product to retailers immediately upon being licensed.

I.e., "we know you're already growing, we won't make you wait"
@vprnet Gannon talking about ARIDE - a program to train LEO's on detecting impairment on the roadside at a level above standard field sobriety test, but below Drug Recognition Expert training. More LEO's will receive ARIDE training.
@vprnet Some discussion on saliva tests. Again, the bill allows them, but only with a warrant. Also, they would not be allowed on the roadside - like blood tests, they would be conducted at barracks.

This is an attempt to balance public safety and civil liberties.
@vprnet The bill also adds primary enforcement of seat belt laws. Currently, you cannot be pulled over for not having a seatbelt, only ticketed if pulled over from something else.

The Senate has rejected this idea several times, likely to do so again.
@vprnet Fun fact: S.54 requires the legislature's lawyers to re-write all of Vermont's laws to replace the word "marijuana" with the word "cannabis".
@vprnet The Government Operations Committee has heard from 59 witnesses on this bill. 12 other committees separately heard from other witnesses.
@vprnet Next up: Rep. Sam Young delivering the report of the Ways and Means (tax) Committee.

The bill would impose a 14% excise tax, and the state's 6% sales tax, on cannabis sales.

Towns with 1% sales tax would apply that, too.
@vprnet All 6% sales tax revenues go to the state's Education Fund, which is otherwise made up of property taxes and lottery proceeds.
@vprnet The 14% excise tax would go to the General Fund, except that 30% of those funds would be allocated to a substance use prevention program.
The bill also implements a state-level 280E fix, allowing deduction for ordinary business expenses that are not allowed for cannabis sellers under the federal tax code
The state is conservatively estimating tax revenues at ~$12m per year once the market is fully developed.

This would imply $60m of regulated market sales, which is about 1/3 of the total annual spending estimated by RAND in 2015.
Next up, Vergennes Rep Diane Lanpher delivering the report of the Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Lanpher has historically voted against legalization, but has come to believe that regulation is the right approach now that legalization has happened.
The Appropriations Committee recommends reducing the Control Board from 5 members to 3, to save some money.
The Appropriations Committee also proposes sunsetting the Control Board in 2024. Unclear where exactly regulatory oversight would move at that time.
The House is now set to break for party caucuses to discuss the bill.
In VT, party caucuses are open to the public. I'll be heading into the D caucus.
The House is in recess until 3pm.
Recess is going to last longer than 3pm. Caucuses still ongoing.
House is back in session.

Cynthia Browning is interrogating Sam Young on why the Ways and Means Committee (on which they both serve) eliminated a local tax.
Rep. Young's view is that taxing cannabis like alcohol or tobacco is appropriate -- that is, an excise tax and a sales tax, with a local sales tax if the town has one.
Browning's broader point is that a local tax stream would incentivize towns to opt in to retail sales, and that if towns do not opt in, the illicit market would continue to thrive.
This is one of the few times in the last 5 years I've agreed with Cynthia Browning.
Browning: Without local tax, you'll end up with "wet and dry, or maybe smoky and not smoky, towns".
Browning is urging her colleagues to vote against her own committee's amendment -- pretty rare thing on the House floor.
Rep Young points out that local fees, unlike local taxes, will go to all municipalities, whereas local tax would only go to towns with retail shops, but not those with farms, manufacturers, etc.
Minority Leader Patricia McCoy now asking questions of Rep. Young.
Young seeks (and gets) confirmation that towns with 1% local sales tax would get that on cannabis sales. Asks if local fees would be above and beyond that -- yes, they would.
Rep. Bob Bancroft asking how much of the 1% local tax actually goes to the state -- answer is 7/10, as it is with all sales taxes.
Rep. Linda Myers of Essex asks if towns that don't have local taxes now want one later, can they do that?

Young: By law, that requires legislative approval.
Rep. McFaun has questions about how growing cannabis might impact the mortgage on his farm.
Point of order is sustained, McFaun's question was not germane to the current amendment on the floor.
And we have our first roll call vote -- this will take ~20 minutes.

It's going to be a long day.
Ways and Means amendment passes.

Appropriations next.
Rep. Ann Donohue asking about how it is that the state will "borrow" this year and next to pay for regulatory costs against tax revenues in future years.

The answer is that the state has some $300m in the bank at any time, and they'd be writing an IOU to that "account".
Thus, there will be no impact on this year's General Fund from the regulatory standup process.
Voice vote on this one. Strong yes.
Next up is Rep. Young's amendment proposing local fees.
The amendment also includes a fee on cannabis advertising - all advertisements must be reviewed/approved by the Control Board, and this would require a fee be paid each time.

Works like a tax on advertising, @OglesbyPat ought to love this one.
@OglesbyPat With very little debate, the fees amendment passes on near-unanimous voice vote.
@OglesbyPat Next: an amendment from Rep. Scott Beck and Rep. Cynthia Browning, which should bring some heat.
@OglesbyPat This amendment would strip out the part of the Appropriations Committee's amendment that requires the sales tax revenues be reserved for after-school programming.
@OglesbyPat Normally, this body gets criticized for passing unfunded mandates. Here, they are going to fund something that hasn't been mandated yet.
@OglesbyPat Amendment fails by close voice vote.
@OglesbyPat Next: Gannon's amendment.

Most of these are technical in nature, but there are two "big" points.

1) Doubles the "craft" grow size from 500 to 1000 sq ft.

2) Limits edibles to 50mg per package (still 5mg per serving)
@OglesbyPat Gannon notes that most states have 10mg servings and 100mg package caps. Says this lower limit will prevent cannabis-novice users from accidentally having too much - something that's thought to have lead to increased ER visits in Colorado.
@OglesbyPat Gannon's amendment passes by near-unanimous voice vote.
@OglesbyPat Next up: the "big" Government Operations amendment.
@OglesbyPat And...here's Cynthia Browning again.
@OglesbyPat Browning is (awkwardly) asking (important) questions about affiliate ownership restrictions.
@OglesbyPat The bill limits each person to owning or controlling just one license of each time. "Control" is broadly defined, including contractual rights. 10% ownership is deemed control, but ownership at lower thresholds may still be controlling.
@OglesbyPat Gannon, a former SEC attorney, is well prepared to answer these questions.
@OglesbyPat Browning now asking questions of Rep. Kimbell, who sits on the Commerce Committee.
@OglesbyPat Kimbell agrees it is important to have disclosure of ownership.
@OglesbyPat Browning says she will introduce an amendment requiring disclosure of all owners of a license applicant, regardless of ownership level.

I like it.
@OglesbyPat So that's twice I've agreed with Browning today.
@OglesbyPat Rep. Donohue next. Donohue, long-time opponent of cannabis law reform, gives kudos to Gov Ops committee for careful consideration of the issues.
@OglesbyPat Donohue raises concern about advertising.

Wants to know whether a sign affixed to a dispensary could be considered advertising under certain circumstances.

Answer: maybe?
@OglesbyPat Next, Donohue questions how restriction on media reaching audience 15%+ people under 21 years old was arrived at - why 15%?

Gannon: Was originally 30%, but lobbyists asked for 15%.
@OglesbyPat Gannon: We considered ban on advertisement, but felt that would be unconstitutional. This seeks to restrict advertisements as much as possible.
@OglesbyPat 🚨Jill Krowinski, at the Speaker's podium in Speaker Johnson's absence, has been brought a stool.🚨
@OglesbyPat Donohue says she will propose an amendment to ban advertisements, tomorrow.
@OglesbyPat Next: Ag Chair Carolyn Partridge, notes concerns from farmers about the bill. Says her preference would have been to regulate THC cannabis like CBD cannabis, through AAFM.
@OglesbyPat Partridge, who is friends with several cannabis growers, notes a provision granting regulatory exemptions and licensing priority for small growers.
@OglesbyPat Partridge notes with appreciation the requirement for Control Board to work with Agency of Ag on farm-impacting issues.
@OglesbyPat Partridge sounds note of caution to farmers given federal prohibition - warns farmers to establish a "firewall" between cannabis and non-cannabis operations.
@OglesbyPat Rep. Chesnut-Tangerman now up, addressing Browning's prior question on affiliate ownership, reveals his membership in a secret Math Committee.
@OglesbyPat I should apologize at this point to Pat Oglesby, who's getting tagged in all of these tweets now. Sorry, Pat! You can mute this thread!
@OglesbyPat Rep. Bancroft back up, asking about the current medical marijuana dispensary owners. Notes press reports that the 5 dispensary licenses are controlled by 3 entities/groups.
@OglesbyPat Gannon: An entity that controls more than one medical dispensary would only be allowed to control ONE "Integrated" license under S.54.
@OglesbyPat Bancroft now asking whether a greenhouse could be an "enclosed, locked facility" under S.54.

Gannon: Put a lock on it.
@OglesbyPat Rep. Butch Shaw from Pittsford up now. Why does bill require the administration to provide office space for the Control Board, and will the Control Board pay a fee for this space?

Gannon: standard process, yes they'll pay like everyone else does.
@OglesbyPat Shaw: Can municipalities charge for local licenses?

Gannon: No -- but the body just passed an amendment permitting fees.
@OglesbyPat Shaw: any concerns about vaping?

Gannon: Illicit market vaping products are a big concern, Vitamin E Acetate seems to be the cause of injuries and deaths, regulating production is the way to fight that.
@OglesbyPat Shaw: Who will pay the fee for criminal history checks?

Gannon: Fee to NCIS is paid by Control Board, but application fees will be set to cover that.
@OglesbyPat Shaw: How long will criminal background records be kept?

Gannon: Board will destroy records immediately after review.
@OglesbyPat Fun fact: Rep. Shaw worked on a hemp farm this summer, has told me he enjoyed it.
@OglesbyPat William Notte up now.

Notte will support the bill, but strongly urges adoption of a local tax to support municipal expenses.
@OglesbyPat Notte: Consumer safety from cannabis regulation is important, and Vermonters deserve it. But disappointed that Rutland County municipalities not being incentivized to opt in for regulated sales.
@OglesbyPat Next: Tommy Walz of Barre City.

Walz speaking eloquently of the benefits of regulation and control - consumer protection, public safety. Refers to the failures of alcohol prohibition.
@OglesbyPat Rep. Bancroft back up, asking again about greenhouses. What if the sides roll up, is that still "secured, locked facility"

Gannon consulting with leg counsel, but answer is, put a fence on it.
@OglesbyPat Browning: I support lifting prohibition, but I'm voting no because of lack of local taxes.
@OglesbyPat Rep. Linda Joy Sullivan up now, notes 280E and federal law already create hurdles to the regulated market, local tax or no local tax. Says this bill is the first step.
@OglesbyPat Rep. Higley up now, saying California's illicit market is thriving despite legalizing, regulation "won't inhibit the illicit market one iota".
@OglesbyPat Strong point of order from Sandy Haas!
@OglesbyPat In my fantasy legislator league, sustained points of order are 5 points each.
@OglesbyPat Higley asking whether the bill has potency limits.

Gannon: Flower limited to 30% THC, extracts to 60%
@OglesbyPat Rep. Sarah Coffee next - supports the bill. Coffee, from SE VT, notes that in nearby Mass border towns, cannabis shops are reviving downtowns.
@OglesbyPat Coffee: This legislation creates jobs, revitalizes downtowns, and brings tax dollars back into Vermont.
@OglesbyPat Rep. Ken Goslant up next - wants to know whether costs to the Department of Public Safety were considered.

Gannon: No additional costs to DPS here.
@OglesbyPat +10 for Sandy Haas, raising the SAME point of order TWICE on one set of questioning.
@OglesbyPat Gosland is "deeply concerned".
@OglesbyPat Rep. Nader Hashim, a former state trooper and DRE who is pro regulation, up now to drop some knowledge on the body.
@OglesbyPat Hashim describing the DRE process, shifts to the highway safety provisions of the bill. Hashim worked closely with Gov Ops committee to write these provisions.
@OglesbyPat Hashim: Expanding the ARIDE program will make our roads safer.
@OglesbyPat Hashim: Education is also important. With regulation, we can educate drivers on the risks of driving under influence, preventing drugged driving in the first place.
@OglesbyPat McFaun back up to ask about his farm mortgage.
@OglesbyPat He still did not get an answer.
@OglesbyPat Rep. Vicky Strong, who is both district mate and polar opposite to Rep. Sam Young on drug policy, asks if health impacts of cannabis use were explored in committee.
@OglesbyPat Gannon: Cannabis is not good for teens, and so we restrict access to cannabis to people over the age of 21 through regulation.
@OglesbyPat Gannon adds: in Colorado and Washington, research has shown a decline in teen useage following legalization.
@OglesbyPat Gannon: Not only are we restricting access by regulating, but we are providing money for serious prevention efforts to reduce teen use.
@OglesbyPat Rep. Savage asks why Dept of Public Safety is being directed to pay the testing costs of the medical dispensaries.
@OglesbyPat Minority Leader McCoy back up. Asking whether the Control Board's responsibilities could be given instead to the Liquor Control Board.
@OglesbyPat Sorry, misunderstood her question. She wants to know whether the provision saying control board members can only be removed for cause is consistent with Liquor Control.
@OglesbyPat Gannon: We want the Control Board to be independent of political whims.
@OglesbyPat McCoy: what happens after 2024 when the Control Board sunsets?

Lanpher: Auditor will do a full review in 2023, and recommend how to proceed.
@OglesbyPat Lanpher: A sunset will force us to actually take a look at the auditor's report.
@OglesbyPat Roll call vote has been requested for the Gov Ops amendment. Coming soon.

After this, there will still be one more vote today to actually approve the bill -- and then another round of debate/votes tomorrow.
@OglesbyPat Rep. Donohue surprises nobody, declares her opposition to the bill.
@OglesbyPat Gov Ops Chair Sarah Copeland Hanzas now describing the work that went into the bill.

12 of the 14 committees in the House have provided input.
@OglesbyPat Copeland Hanzas: Important to not put unreasonable barriers to entry into the regulated market, so as to better bring in existing growers.
@OglesbyPat Copeland Hanzas: Thanks the many members for their contributions to the bill, urges Yes votes.
@OglesbyPat Rep. Cheran Fegard up now - one of the few truly undecided votes in the body.
@OglesbyPat Fegard says she has asked her constituents what she should do, has received 68 responses from what she describes as "the most conservative district in the state", almost equally split pro and con.
@OglesbyPat Roll call has started.
We have 90 in favor!!
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