Scott signs cannabis legalization with ‘mixed emotions’
Gov. Phil Scott signed legislation to legalize cannabis for adults on Monday, and, with the stroke of his pen, Vermont became the first state to allow recreational cannabis through the legislative process.
Each of the other eight states and D.C. passed their recreational cannabis laws by ballot referendum.
Vermont’s law — which passed the Senate and the House earlier this month — will allow adults 21-and-older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to two mature and four immature cannabis plants per household. The law is set to take effect on July 1.
It does not create regulations for the commercial sale of cannabis.
Scott said in a message to the Legislature that he signed the bill with “mixed emotions,” according to a news release. He went on to sound a foreboding note for those hoping to see Vermont move quickly to a taxed-and-regulated cannabis industry.
The governor said he has “reservations about a commercial system which depends on profit motive and market driven demand for its growth.”
Even reform-minded lawmakers concede that no further progress on cannabis is likely during the current session.
Scott said Vermont must have “comprehensive and convincing plans” to address highway safety issues and be ready to roll out an education and prevention campaign before he would consider regulations for commercial cannabis.
To that end, it should be seen as a positive sign that Scott’s Marijuana Advisory Commission released a report last week with road safety recommendations and a calling for a Health Department-led cannabis public health campaign — though the report was silent on how to tax or regulate cannabis sales.
“As I said when I vetoed S. 22 in May, I personally believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children,” Scott told lawmakers, according to the news release.
Scott said he signed the legalization bill because it included “additional protections” that were not contained in the bill he vetoed.
Under the rules set out in the new law, landlords may prohibit cannabis cultivation on their property. Stored cannabis from home cultivation is not included under the one ounce personal possession limit.
The measure includes civil penalties for public use, possession outside the home of more than the one ounce limit, possession by people under 21 and using cannabis in a vehicle. It creates misdemeanor criminal charges for people who consume cannabis in a vehicle with a minor, and for cultivating or using cannabis “in a licensed or registered family child care home, licensed child care center, or after school program.”
The legislation creates new misdemeanors — on top of the current felony charges — for supplying a minor with cannabis and creates a new crime for the unlicensed manufacture concentrates with flammable gas, such as butane or hexane.
Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a longtime proponent of cannabis reform, signed the bill last week, moving it to the governor’s desk.
“Proud to be a part of criminal justice reform and civil liberty legislation. I will continue to work for a fully regulated system to reduce youth access, and raise revenue for prevention, treatment and safer roads,” Zuckerman wrote in a Facebook post announcing he had signed the bill.