Vermont has set a new precedent in the United States by becoming the first state in the nation to pass a bill through its legislative chambers aimed at ending marijuana prohibition. The only concern now is whether Governor Phil Scott, who has said he does not believe legal weed is a “priority,” will allow this legislation to make it on the books.
Lawmakers in the Green Mountain State made history on Wednesday afternoon by approving a measure designed to legalize the cultivation and possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill also allows the state to draft a set of regulations that could eventually give way to the creation of a fully legal pot market.
The bill, which was approved earlier by the Senate, made its way through the House of Representatives with a vote of 79-to-66. It is now on its way to the desk of Governor Scott for final approval.
Yesterday, Scott told Vermont Public Radio that although he believes marijuana legalization is “inevitable,” it is not “a priority for Vermont.”
It’s not that Scott is “philosophically opposed” to legalization, but he believes more needs to be done to ensure public safety.
"I believe that what we should be doing is trying to find ways to protect those on our highways, to deliver a level of impairment that is consistent throughout the northeast, as well as to address the edibles for our kids before we move forward with legalization," Scott said.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t sign the bill. Scott told the news source that he would “review” the proposal and then decide the proper course of action.
If the bill is signed into law, it would call for the immediate creation of a state cannabis commission responsible for establishing the rules for an eventual taxed and regulated cannabis industry. Those recommendations would then be forwarded to the state legislature for consideration in 2018.
Marijuana advocates are praising the Democratic-controlled state legislature for their progressive attitude toward this reform, especially at a time when there is still great concern over whether the Justice Department will impose a federal crackdown on recreational marijuana states.
"Vermont lawmakers made history today," Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. "The legislature has taken a crucial step toward ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition."
If Scott gets onboard with the bill, Vermont would become the ninth state in the nation to end marijuana prohibition, as the new law would give people the ability to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to two plants at home for personal use.