At noon EST, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) will reveal whether or not Vermont will become the ninth US state to legalize adult-use cannabis. Scott is expected to make his announcement during a previously scheduled event at the Statehouse in Montpelier.
On Tuesday, the governor said he has not decided yet whether he’ll sign the bill, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.
Gov. Scott told Kyle Midura of WCAX 3 News that he spent the weekend reviewing the legalization bill that was passed by the Vermont House and Senate last week.
“I’m not philosophically opposed to it,” Scott said, adding that he wants any legal marijuana system to address highway safety and protect children from edible marijuana products. “I’m not sure that the time is right now.”
If passed, the measure would legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, along with two mature plants and four immature plants, beginning in July 2018. The measure would also create a state commission to look at cannabis tax-and-regulate models in other states and make recommendations for the adult use market in Vermont.
The commission would begin its work effective immediately.
It’s anyone’s guess what Scott will do on Wednesday. The Republican governor has shown some openness to cannabis reform, but he’s never fully supported adult-use legalization.
“I’ve been consistent in my response … when I was in the Senate, I voted in favor of medical marijuana. I was supportive of decriminalization. But I’ve said, ‘Not right now.’ I don’t think we have enough information at this point. We have four other states that have legalized right now, and until we have some answers to questions, like impairment on our highways and the edibles and the tax structure and so forth and so on, I think we – the governor of Colorado even said … ‘My advice to any states that are looking to legalize is, why don’t you wait a couple years?’ And they’ll work some things out. We’ll learn from them. We can’t afford to make any mistakes here. So I’m not saying never. I’m saying it’s the timing’s not right. It’s not now.”
Vermont’s neighbors, Massachusetts and Maine, are moving forward with legalization and are expected to have retail stores open within the next year. With both states choosing to legalize within such a short distance of Vermont, Gov. Scott might decide to legalize cannabis in part to avoid any border issues with the surrounding states.
Unless Gov. Scott blocks the bill and vetoes it tomorrow, Vermont will become the first state to legalize cannabis through the state legislative process, not a voter-driven initiative or amendment.