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Will Vermont Be the Next State to Legalize Marijuana?

Ab Hanna

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Will Vermont Be the Next State to Legalize Marijuana?

Earlier this year, Vermont’s governor Phil Scott, a Republican, decided to veto a bill that would have legalized marijuana. A blow was dealt to Vermonters in support of legalization. Fortunately, not all hope was lost. The governor sent the bill back to the legislature for changes to be made. He claims that he isn’t “philosophically opposed to ending the prohibition on marijuana.”

Changes To The Bill

The governor expressed several concerns about the bill in a letter he wrote. For one, he wants to find out if there are devices that can detect whether or not one is impaired from cannabis.

“To my mind, there is no general agreement on the impact of the public safety impacts, the role of marijuana in highway accidents and fatalities, the impact on the developing brain and at what age that is most impactful so developing a baseline of data is very important,” Jaye Pershing Johnson, legal counsel to the governor, told the Marijuana Advisory Commission.

The governor wants to give regulators more time to study the impact legal cannabis has made in other states. He also wants to see tougher penalties for the illegal sales of marijuana to minors.

In his letter, Scott claimed, “If the Legislature agrees to make the changes I am seeking, we can move this discussion forward in a way that ensures that the public health and safety of our communities and our children continues to come first.”

When Will The New Bill Be Introduced?

The legislature doesn’t convene again until January. If lawmakers pass the bill, the state of Vermont could be the next state to legalize marijuana as soon as July 2018. They could very well be the next state to go legal. However, the way weed will be bought and sold will differ from the other states with recreational marijuana.

The current Vermont bill does not allow for the retail sale of cannabis. So if it goes forward with a legal market, it would be similar to that of District of Columbia. Washington, D.C. does not allow for the retail sale of marijuana—even though possession of small quantities is legal. As a result, the people use a loophole in the law to “gift” each other marijuana without getting arrested.

You can give someone pot and you can receive it. You just can’t be paying for it.

Legalization Advocates Respond To Vermont’s Governor

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman criticized Scott’s decision to veto the bill.

“Prohibition has failed and causes approximately 100,000 Vermonters to be labeled lawbreakers,” Zuckerman said, according to WPTZ. “Vermont is now lagging behind other states in the region and is missing opportunities to capture revenue from an underground market that would allow us to address highway safety, drug education and treatment and other needed state investments to reduce the temptation of drug use.”

One advocate, Tom Angell, founder of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, sees the bight side of things.

 “The fact that a bill even ended up on the governor’s desk signals a new phase of the marijuana legalization movement,” Angell said. “Our momentum has now reached a point where the issue has become so popular with voters at the ballot box that more politicians are feeling comfortable enough to grapple with it themselves.”

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