Clock Ticking on Marijuana Legalization Decision in Vermont

The question of whether to legalize small amounts of pot is now before Vermont Gov. Phil Scott

The clock is ticking on a big choice from Vermont Governor Phil Scott who must decide by mid-week if recreational marijuana should be legal in his state.

Scott is now weighing whether to sign or veto a bill by the end of the day Wednesday that would legalize possession by adults 21-and-up of up to an ounce of marijuana and a handful of plants at home for personal use, beginning in July 2018.

The legislation would also create a state commission to study taxed and regulated retail operations in other states and recommend if that system could work here.

“I’m considering all my options,” Scott told reporters Friday.

The governor, who has expressed concern about possible impacts from marijuana to road safety, discussed an option he has to let the marijuana bill become law without his signature.

“I think there is a difference,” Scott said in response to a reporter’s question about whether he sees a distinction between signing the bill and letting it become law without his signature. “One is you’re somewhat enthusiastically endorsing the bill; the other is, you know, almost putting out the white flag and saying, ‘It’s going to happen and I’m not going to be a part of it.’”

Opponents and supporters of marijuana legalization are also weighing in.

“Most people who use it do use it safely,” said Eli Harrington, a cannabis reform advocate and co-founder of the website Heady Vermont.

An estimated 80,000 Vermonters regularly use marijuana, according to a recent study from the RAND Corporation.

Harrington said many of those folks think of using marijuana as comparable to enjoying a beer after work, even though current state law sees it very differently.

“People are sick of being treated like criminals; having to feel like criminals,” Harrington told necn.

Opponents of legalization are urging a veto.

“The majority of professionals in law enforcement and health care and mental health do not want to see legal cannabis in Vermont,” said Dr. David Rettew of the University of Vermont Medical Center. “Remember, these are the people that Vermont will ask to deal with the consequences and clean up the mess this legislation would make.”

Scott is going to take his time with this decision. An announcement from him is expected on Wednesday, which is the last day he can exercise his veto power.

NBC 5 News contributed to this report.

Contact Us