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Vermont Gov. Vetoes Cannabis Legalization Bill

May 24, 2017
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott waves to the gallery as he departs the inauguration ceremony at the Vermont Statehouse, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, in Montpelier, Vt. (Alden Pellett/AP)
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott announced his decision Wednesday to veto a bill that would have made Vermont the ninth US state to end its prohibition of cannabis. The Legislature-approved bill, S.22, would have legalized personal possession and home cultivation of a small amount of cannabis.

The measure would have legalized possession of up to an ounce of cannabis for adults 21 and over, and it would have permitted home cultivation of up to two mature plants and four immature plants. The measure would also create a state commission to look at cannabis tax-and-regulate models in other states and make recommendations for a possible adult-use market in Vermont.

In a press conference announcing his decision, Scott said he is willing to work with the state Legislature to create a better bill than the current bipartisan proposal. He identified three main areas in the bill he’d like to see addressed.

First, he said he wants tougher penalties for selling cannabis to minors as well as for consumption by adults in the presence of minors. Second, he would like to see stiffer penalties for those caught driving under the influence of cannabis.

The third change he would like, he said, is the expansion of the bill’s proposed commission to develop a tax-and-regulate proposal. As the bill was written, the commission would have studied other legal states, such as Colorado and Washington, that have existing regulated markets. Scott said he wants more representation from different departments in Vermont, such as the Department of Public Safety. He added that the commission should also study and determine cannabis driving impairment thresholds, along with how to test cannabis impairment.

It’s the second legalization measure in as many years to win significant support among Vermont lawmakers and then fall just short of becoming law.

Earlier this week, 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.


Vermont Legislature Votes to Legalize. But Will the Gov Sign It?

“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.”


Which States Are Most Likely to Legalize Cannabis Next?

The Republican governor has shown some openness to cannabis reform, but he told Vermont Public Radio last year that 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.

A more expansive Vermont bill had the support of then-Gov. Peter Shumlin last year, but the bill ultimately languished in the Legislature.


Crash and Burn in Burlington: How Legalization Failed in Vermont

Vermont’s neighbors, Massachusetts and Maine, have passed voter initiatives to legalize cannabis and are expected to see retail stores open within the next year.

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Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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  • Captain

    Honestly it sounds like he’s open to the idea of cannabis legalization he just wants the bill reworked a bit.

    • Austin

      That’s what all the red’s say…

    • familyguy

      Really now! Sound like the light bulb in your head has burnt.

  • Fester

    Disappointed but not at all surprised. The senate, which had the better legalization bill could override the veto but the house with it’s grow and give only bill can not override it. Sorry but you were dumb enough to elect a republitard governor, this is what you get. Now unless Connecticut pulls off a miracle by slipping legalization into the state budget and hoping no one notices, NJ will get the honor of being the first state to legalize via the state legislature once republitard governor krispy kreme leaves office at the end of the year.

    • Frantic

      We need the $$$ here in Ct as our budget according to to Malloy, is in trouble! Well LEGALIZE IT ! Im a licensed MMP in Ct and the cost is ridiculously expensive compared to west coast

  • Jenny Hrvatska

    What does tougher penalties for consumption by adults in the presence of minors mean?

    • Fester

      I think he means it’s legal but we are going to do everything in our power to discourage it’s use so you better stay in the closet. Now junior go get me my lighter so I can have a cigarette with this beer.

    • Corna Pocket

      LOL I was thinking the same think,But it’s ok to down a whole bottle of moscato in front of your 6yr old.

  • Scott Adams

    The current drug dealers don’t card school kids. Stupid decision on Scott’s part to change the status quo of black market profiteering.

  • Joe

    That is wealthy people fault, keep electing as$holds.

  • Mitch Turitz

    The Vermont governor just doesn’t want marijuana legalized in his state on his watch. That way, he stays in Trump’s favor.

  • familyguy

    when it comes to your rights, republicans always seem to think people have a fist full. What a hypocrite. He seems to back project SAM Sabot and Kennedy making tons of cash on bogus rehab centers.

  • familyguy

    Things left up to the politicians never work for the common citizens.

  • familyguy

    Another Jeff sessions communist!

  • Nareth Leang

    Scott calls himself Libertarian. Yet what could be less “Libertarian” than the veto of a bill supported by the vast majority of his constituents & their elected representatives. Government (in this case the Governor) knows best. Thanks dad. Libertarian my ass.

  • lovingc

    Scott has earned himself a non return to office. All he has accomplished with his veto is sending your money to Mexico and the black market. Follow the money! He has to be getting kickbacks from someone.

  • lovingc

    He didn’t pay any attention to the NTSB on driving and cannabis, I guess.