Gov. Phil Scott has announced he’s creating a commission that will study adult use cannabis legalization and present recommendations.
After vetoing legislation in May that would have legalized recreational marijuana, Vermont Governor Phil Scott says he now intends to create an executive commission to study cannabis legalization. Scott made his announcement while speaking at the third annual Young Professionals Summit of Vermont last week.
The “blue ribbon commission,” whose members have yet to be named, will present the governor with recommendations on legalization sometime next year. They’ll focus on safety impacts of legalization, as well as sales and regulation, and how best to educate youth on cannabis.
“There are still two, three bills that are still out there. This issue isn’t going away at this point, and it’s something that will be continuing,” Scott told reporters.
This spring, Vermont lawmakers approved a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, but Scott vetoed it and sent it back, saying he might support another bill if changes were made. He has said that he’s not philosophically opposed to legalization, but that he still has concerns about education, driving impairment and road safety. He wants more stringent highway safety standards in place before state-sanctioned adult use sales begin.
“For me it’s to address some of the issues that I had initially about highway safety: How do we work with our neighbors? How do we make sure that we’re protecting the most vulnerable and our kids,” said Scott.
After the veto, Scott subsequently negotiated a compromise measure with the House and Senate Democrats that would have allowed the proposed legislation to move forward, but House Republicans blocked a vote during a one-day veto session in June.
Scott does acknowledge that marijuana legalization is likely coming to Vermont, especially with prohibition ending in neighboring states. Retail outlets in Maine and Massachusetts are slated to start selling legal recreational marijuana to adults in less than a year. Scott told reporters that this commission is “the next step” in Vermont’s progress toward legalization.
“It’s happening all around us with Massachusetts, Maine, Canada. It’s certainly forming around us,” Scott said. “I just think it’s imperative that we stay ahead of the curve as best we can and make sure that we prepare ourselves.”
Eight states and Washington D.C. have legalized adult use marijuana, all of which happened through ballot initiatives. If Scott had signed the bill to legalize marijuana, Vermont would have become the first in the nation to legalize adult use cannabis through legislation. A public poll found that nearly 60 percent of Vermont voters support legalizing adult use marijuana.
Bennington County Sen. Dick Sears, a supporter of legalizing adult use cannabis and the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Vermont Public Radio that he and other lawmakers hope to have another marijuana legalization bill approved and presented to Scott for consideration early next year.