Vermont governor vetoes marijuana bill, wants changes made

Vermont Governor Phil Scott on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would, among other things, legalize recreational use of marijuana in his state, but advocates are hopeful about Scott's stated willingness to pass a similar bill this summer.

The bill, approved by the house earlier this month would remove all penalties for people 21 and older who possess less than one ounce of pot. The measure would have also created a study commission to begin to explore how to regulate a retail marijuana market in the state, such as the ones that now exist in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. "It concerns me", he told Tallahassee reporters.

Opinions on marijuana legalization do not fall neatly along party; age; or geographic lines.

"I'm not philosophically opposed to ending the prohibition on marijuana", Scott said, according to local news outlets.

More specifically - as I have said repeatedly throughout the campaign and this session - we should know how we will detect and measure impairment on our roadways, fund and implement additional substance abuse prevention education, keep our children safe and penalize those who do not, and measure how legalization impacts the mental health and substance abuse issues our communities are already facing. "Minor marijuana possession offenders should not be saddled with a criminal record and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it". She was open to the suggestions he made to change the legislation.

That said, he thinks the state could still be on track to legalize by July 2018 - the original bill's timeline - if lawmakers act fast.

That scholarship program may run out of money if Scott vetoes the bill.

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"It's unfortunate that the governor chose to put his ideas on the table after adjournment, rather than work with the Legislature over the course of this session to include his ideas into the bill during the legislative session", Johnson said.

"I carefully reviewed this bill and I have met with stakeholders on both sides", the governor added.

Bobby Sand, a Vermont Law School professor and former Windsor County prosecutor, is a proponent of legalization. Vermont would have been the first state to legalize marijuana by vote of a state legislative body. However, she was optimistic.

The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana is a broad coalition of citizens, organizations, and businesses working to end marijuana prohibition in Vermont and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed.

The Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics applauded the governor's decision. Medical marijuana became legal in Vermont in 2004.

"Our work is not over", said Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes legalization. On one hand I see the Vermont effort as demonstrating the progress that has been made in Vermont on the issue, but on the other hand I am leery of the Governor's position that he willing to work with the Legislature to get the job done.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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