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Vermont Governor Signs Cannabis Bill With ‘Mixed Emotions’

January 22, 2018
James MacWilliams prunes a marijuana plant that he is growing indoors in Portland, Maine, in this Dec. 13, 2017 photo. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott on Monday signed a state marijuana bill into law, making the Vermont the first in the country to authorize the adult use of the substance by an act of a state legislature. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Gov. Phil Scott on Monday privately signed Vermont’s marijuana bill into law, making the state the first in the country to authorize the recreational use of the substance by an act of a state legislature.

The law, which goes into effect July 1, allows adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, two mature and four immature plants.

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Vermont will become the ninth state in the country, along with Washington, D.C, to approve the recreational use of marijuana. The other states and Washington authorized the recreational use of marijuana through a vote of residents. Vermont law contains no mechanism that allows for a citizen referendum.

“I think the vast majority of Vermonters won't notice any change at all.”
Matt Simon, Marijuana Policy Project

The Republican governor had until the end of the day Monday to sign the bill. His office issued a statement Monday afternoon saying he had signed the bill.

“Today, with mixed emotions, I have signed” the bill he said. “I personally believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children.”

The law contains no mechanism for the taxation or sale of marijuana, although the Legislature is expected to develop such a system.

Vermont’s move is an incremental reform that will have little impact for most people in the state, said Matt Simon, New England political director for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.

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“I think the vast majority of Vermonters won’t notice any change at all,” Simon said. “It’s simply eliminating a fine and eliminating a penalty for growing a small number of plants.”

The new law is unlikely to prompt people who don’t now smoke marijuana to take it up, said Robert Sand, a Vermont law school professor and former county prosecutor who has advocated for years to change the state’s drug laws.

“Realistically anyone who wanted to try it has tried it,” Sand said.

There will be times when people misuse marijuana and opponents will cite the incidents as evidence that legalization was not a good thing, he said.

“I believe we will end up with a net improvement of public health and safety even though I recognize there will be some bad outcomes,” Sand said.

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The Vermont Legislature passed a similar proposal last spring, but Scott vetoed it, citing practical concerns. Lawmakers revised the proposal to do more to protect children and enhance highway safety.

The revised bill passed both chambers this month.

Recreational use of marijuana already has passed in Maine and Massachusetts, and both states are awaiting the implementation of systems to tax and regulate marijuana.

New Hampshire’s House gave preliminary approval to a bill earlier this month that would allow adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and to cultivate it in limited quantities, even though a commission studying the issue won’t finish its work until next fall.

Scott said last week he was declining to hold a bill signing ceremony because “some people don’t feel that this is a momentous occasion.”

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  • Etidorhpa

    Prepare for an influx of heroin addicts to camp out in the beautiful countryside and deface it with their filth.

    • Nathan Turner

      Open a book and do some of your own research for a change moron.

    • Your nephew David Paul

      Really….? Are you that warped….like you really believe that crap…? Wow is all I can say. With all the research that proves the opposite of what you are thinking and zero research to back your statement you still believe that ignorant, stupid, unfounded propaganda…? Hard to believe the human psych sometimes. No wonder our world is so screwed up….

  • Apollo Elevo

    Just what we need more white people smoking pot playing video games blowing up the world