Today, Vermont Republican Governor Phil Scott overruled his state legislature.
Scott vetoed a bill for the complete legislation of cannabis. It would have paved the way for full legalization in Vermont in 2018.
The setback in Vermont highlights the continued divide on the issue of legalization. While select states have fully approved marijuana, others remain stuck in the past.
Meanwhile, the U.S. federal government’s potential enforcement looms over entrepreneurs, doctors and millions of average Americans. That creates considerable risks in the U.S., and highlights the opportunity in Canada.
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In today’s press conference – held at noon Eastern Time in Montpelier, Vermont, Governor Scott explained, “I view this though the lens of a libertarian . . . I’ve previously supported medical marijuana laws and decrimalization… and I realize there is a clear societal shift toward legalization.”
It appears that Scott is open to passing a legalization bill. But he’s going to require some changes from the legislature first.
“If the legislature is willing to work with me, we can get this passed this summer,” commented Scott. Specifically, he wants the legislature to strengthen the bill in three major ways:
- Strengthen penalties for selling to minors.
- Increased penalties for driving under the influence or using in the presence of minors.
- The regulatory commission must include broader participation and have more time to figure out retail sales and taxation
The Vermont legislature reconvenes on June 21. The Republican governor made it clear that he would sign a legalization bill that addresses his concerns.
During today’s news conference, Scott said “If the legislature agrees to the changes I am seeking, we can move forward.”
Even Governor Scott realizes that Canada is on the fast track toward legalization. In announcing his decision, Scott acknowledged that “an entire nation to our north are in the process of making this legal.”
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As a Vermont resident, I’ve been keeping close tabs on the legalization movement in my small state. It’s possible that you’ve missed some of this news, so let me bring you up to speed.
Vermont’s Was First State Legislature to Pass Legalization Bill
On May 11, the Vermont legislature passed a bill to legalize cannabis for recreational use.
Other states have legalized weed. But it’s always been done through a referendum vote by the people. Never before has a state legislature voted in favor of recreational use.
The bill 79-66 vote in the Vermont House meant the bill would be sent on to Republican Governor Phil Scott for his approval. Vermont was the first state where the legislature approved a bill for the full legalization of cannabis.
The measure would legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for people over the age of 21. It would also allow for home growing of up to two mature plants, and would go into effect in July, 2018.
The bill proposed creating a commission to look at how the state would tax and regulate legal sales of cannabis through retail stores. While the timing of a retail rollout is unknown, it would likely be within one or two years.
Gov. Scott was publicly conflicted on whether to sign the bill. On the one hand, he said “I’m not philosophically opposed to it.”
On the other hand, he said he was concerned about highway safety and protecting children. And, Scott said, “I’m not sure that the time is right now.”
Gov. Scott went on to say, “Public opinion obviously matters. But again, I have to do what I think is right for the state throughout from a public safety standpoint.”
This legislation has been widely viewed as the next step toward a setup similar to Colorado or Washington, where weed is sold through retail dispensaries.
Vermont is one of 29 states that has legalized medical marijuana. Within the state, cannabis is currently being sold to patients through dispensaries.
Colorado was the first states to approve use of recreational marijuana in 2012. Right now, in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, anyone over the age of 21 can purchase marijuana at dispensaries.
Four more states ̶ California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada ̶ have also legalized pot for recreational use. However, it’s not yet being sold since the states are still setting up the system for controlling retail sales and taxation of marijuana.
In spite of today’s veto by Gov. Scott, the legalization boom is sweeping across North America. An additional 21 state governments are considering similar marijuana legislation.
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