Vermont Governor Phil Scott Legalizes Marijuana 'With Mixed Emotions'

Marijuana legalized in Vermont

Phil Scott on Monday signed a bill into law that eliminates criminal penalties for possession of marijuana.

The measure brings the number of states where recreational marijuana is legal to seven.

At least seven other states, including NY and New Hampshire, were set to debate marijuana legalization later this year.

Unlike the initiatives that legalized recreational marijuana in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, the Vermont law does not permit commercial production or distribution.

Neighboring Massachusetts, nearby ME and six other states have legalized marijuana use as a result of voter initiatives. The law is set to take effect on July 1. There will be no commercial sales of marijuana.

The Republican governor's office says Scott signed the bill Monday afternoon. The state legalized medical marijuana in 2004, passing without the governor's signature.

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The law allows adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, two mature and four immature plants.

But it does not allow legal sales of marijuana, something Scott said he would veto if the legislature tried to go farther without first adding significant elements to combat young people using marijuana and to bolster traffic safety. A similar legalization bill made it to Scott's desk in 2017, but the governor vetoed it, citing concerns with weak language on punishment for the sale of marijuana to minors and its establishment of a commission to study how a regulated cannabis market would work in Vermont. Scott said in a released statement.

"There is frustration that the governor's panels appear to be predetermined in opposition [to a tax-and-regulate model for marijuana sales] versus the sentiment of the House and Senate, which was to move forward", said Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (D).

Kevin Sabet, who heads the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said the fact that the law does not allow a retail market represents a setback to the legalization movement. "In so many ways, this is a big setback for the pot industry".

The bill passed both chambers of the Vermont Legislature this month. While SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) always opposes any legalization measure that will inevitably increase use rate among our youth and make our roads more unsafe, we recognize that since H.511 stops short of legalizing sales, it can be seen as a compromise.

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