Vermont Governor Vetoes Marijuana Legalization, Offers ‘Path Forward’

MONTPELIER, VT — Gov. Phil Scott announced Wednesday he is vetoing a bill that would have made marijuana legal for adults in Vermont, but offered a “path forward” for passing it later this year.

He specified a handful of changes that would need to be made for him to support the measure and said he believes the legislature has time to incorporate them and enact a revised version during the summer veto session.

Senate Bill 22 would have eliminated the penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and home cultivation of up to two mature marijuana plants and four immature plants by adults 21 and older beginning in July 2018. It also would have created a study commission to develop legislation to regulate and tax marijuana for adult use.

S. 22 was approved by the Senate (20-9) and House of Representatives (79-66) earlier this month, marking the first time a state legislature has ever passed a bill to make marijuana legal for adults.

Fifty-seven percent of Vermont voters support allowing adults 21 and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana, according to a statewide survey of 755 registered voters conducted in March by Public Policy Polling. Only 39% are opposed.

Eight states have enacted laws legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use, all through ballot initiatives. In Washington, D.C., voters approved a ballot initiative making personal possession and home cultivation legal for adults 21 and older. Vermont would be the first state to make marijuana legal for adults via its legislative body rather than a ballot initiative.

“We are disappointed by the governor’s decision to veto this widely supported legislation, but we are very encouraged by the governor’s offer to work with legislators to pass a legalization bill during the summer veto session,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Most Vermonters want to end marijuana prohibition, and it is critical that the legislature respond by passing a revised legalization bill this summer. Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and there is no good reason to continue treating responsible adult consumers like criminals.

“Despite the veto, this is a huge leap forward. The passage of S. 22 demonstrates most members of both legislative chambers are ready to move forward with making marijuana legal for adults. Lawmakers have an opportunity to address the governor’s concerns and pass a revised bill this summer, and we are excited about its prospects,” Simon added.

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