Bill to legalize marijuana statewide sits on Vermont governor’s desk
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The future of legalized recreational marijuana use in Vermont hinged Thursday on a decision by Republican Gov. Phil Scott a day after the state Legislature became the first in the country to vote to legalize it.
Scott hasn't said whether he'll sign the bill to make Vermont the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana, but he has said he wants to ensure the proposal addresses public safety needs, such as ways to counter drugged driving.
"I'm going to review the bill as passed," Scott said Wednesday. "But I've been pretty clear that I'd like to see some improvements to the bill to make sure we have structures in place that provide safety to Vermonters."
Other states that have approved recreational marijuana did so after voter referendums. Vermonters are mixed on the idea.
Montpelier resident Brett Campbell, 57, described himself as a recovering alcoholic and said Thursday that he was in favor of legalization.
"I find it really kind of silly that there are a lot of people who are so afraid of a plant that doesn't have the intoxicating effects to near the degree of self-control and control over judgment as you lose when you're impaired by alcohol," Campbell said.
Montpelier attorney Paul Giuliani, 73, said he felt the legislation was a terrible idea. Laws haven't been able to keep alcohol out of the hands of underage drinkers, and they won't work with marijuana users, either, he said.
"It just sends the wrong message," Giuliani said.
Studies by the Vermont Department of Health have found that Vermont has among the highest prevalence of marijuana use in the country and the second-highest use among people ages 12 to 25.
Proponents of marijuana legalization said Wednesday's vote by the Democrat-led House to give final approval to a measure already passed by the Democrat-majority Senate shows the inevitable expansion of marijuana legalization and the recognition by officials that it's better to regulate and tax the industry than to keep it in the shadows.
The vote came six months after residents in Massachusetts and Maine voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Both states are now developing mechanisms to regulate and tax the sale of marijuana. The New Hampshire Legislature is considering a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.