The Vermont House passed a bill Thursday night to legalize recreational possession of marijuana just hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a Department of Justice policy on legal marijuana.
Lawmakers voted 81-63 in favor of the bill, which would allow adults over the age of 21 to grow and possess small amounts of legal marijuana beginning in July. The State Senate still needs to approve the measure, but Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) has signaled that he will sign the bill. He vetoed a similar measure last year.
House members rejected an effort led by Republicans to delay voting on the bill amid reports that Sessions would rescind a Justice Department policy on states legalizing marijuana, according to the Burlington Free Press.
The Marijuana Policy Project, the largest marijuana policy reform group in the U.S., praised the vote in a statement, calling it an “important step.”
“Vermont is poised to make history by becoming the first state to legalize marijuana cultivation and possession legislatively, rather than by ballot initiative,” Matt Simon, New England policy director for the group, said. “We applaud lawmakers for heeding the calls of their constituents and taking this important step toward treating marijuana more like alcohol.”
Vermont will become the ninth state to make recreational marijuana legal for adults upon the bill’s signing, and the first state to legalize marijuana via its state legislature.
The vote came hours after Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that ordered U.S. attorneys in states where marijuana has been legalized to deprioritize prosecution of marijuana-related cases.
Sessions was slammed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle following the announcement.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) took to the Senate floor to assert that Sessions had told him before his confirmation as attorney general that he didn’t plan to try to reverse his state’s policies legalizing marijuana.
“I would like to know from the attorney general what has changed,” Gardner said. “What has changed the president’s mind? Why is Donald Trump thinking differently than what he promised the people of Colorado?”
Gardner, who leads the Senate GOP campaign arm, threatened to block all Justice Department nominees until Sessions “lives up to the commitment that he made to me.”