MONTPELIER - The Vermont House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, or a handful of home-grown marijuana plants.

The bill would allow adults over 21 years old to have up to one ounce of marijuana or up to five grams of hashish, as well as up to two mature marijuana plants and four immature marijuana plants per household.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced the marijuana legalization bill Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 8-3. The bill moves next to the full House, where a vote is possible Friday.

Rep. Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, the chairwoman of the committee, said marijuana legalization is an issue of criminal justice because people of color are disproportionately incarcerated on marijuana charges, and people who grow marijuana are penalized even though marijuana has been decriminalized.

"That lack of parity has been very, very disturbing to me," Grad said. She added that Vermont should act because Massachusetts and Maine have voted to legalize marijuana.

The bill envisions a system similar to the one in Washington, D.C., instead of the tax-and-regulate marijuana market that was contemplated in last year's Vermont legalization bill.

The hands-off approach won the support of Rep. Thomas Burditt, a Republican from West Rutland who describes himself as a libertarian.

"I like this bill," Burditt said. "There is minimal government intervention, and when I look at some of the other states that have legalized, I look at maximum government intervention. You hear all the horror stories coming out of the states where they have the maximum intervention."

The three other Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted against legalization.

Rep. Janssen Willhoit, R-St. Johnsbury, said he was no longer firmly against the concept of legalization but was still concerned that the only way to obtain marijuana under the bill would be to grow it or buy it on the black market.



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