Vermont is poised to become the ninth state to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.
The bill was approved by the House on Thursday. It now goes to the Senate, which approved a similar version of the legislation last year.
The bill would then go to Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican. Last year, Scott vetoed a similar bill. But he’s expected to sign the current bill following some minor changes, according to local news outlets.
Vermont would be the first state to legalize cannabis through the state legislature instead of a ballot initiative.
The bill would only legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and up to two mature and four immature cannabis plants for adults 21 and older. It wouldn’t legalize recreational pot sales, as has been done in the eight states to legalize marijuana so far. The legislation would take effect in July.
Thursday’s vote in Vermont was complicated by news on the same day that the Trump administration, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, rescinded Obama-era policies that allowed states to move forward with state-level legalization with minimal federal interference even as pot remained illegal at the federal level. But the news did not appear to deter Vermont lawmakers.
In 2012, Colorado and Washington state became the first two to legally allow pot for recreational purposes. Since then, six other states, from Massachusetts to California, and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana — although DC, like Vermont’s bill, does not allow recreational pot sales.
Supporters of legalization argue that it eliminates the harms of marijuana prohibition: the hundreds of thousands of arrests around the US, the racial disparities behind those arrests, and the billions of dollars that flow from the black market for illicit marijuana to drug cartels that then use the money for violent operations around the world. All of this, legalization advocates say, will outweigh any of the potential downsides — such as increased cannabis use — that might come with legalization.
Opponents, meanwhile, claim that legalization will enable a huge marijuana industry that will market the drug irresponsibly. They point to America’s experiences with the alcohol and tobacco industries in particular, which have built their financial empires in large part on some of the heaviest consumers of their products. This could result in far more people using pot, even if it leads to negative health consequences.
Supporters are now on the verge of scoring a win in Vermont.
For more on the debate over marijuana legalization, read Vox’s explainer.
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