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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Vermont has become the first state to have both chambers of its Legislature approve a recreational marijuana legalization bill. A bill that would make cannabis legal for adults in Vermont has received final approval from state lawmakers, and is now headed to the desk of Republican Governor Phil Scott.

If Gov. Scott signs it or allows it to become law without his signature, Vermont would be the first state to make marijuana legal for adults via its Legislature. Asked on Wednesday about whether he would veto the plan, the governor would not say, but he hinted the plan may not meet his test for supposedly “keeping children and roadways safe,” reports Kyle Midura at WCAX.

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Republican Vermont Governor Phil Scott:
“I don’t believe this is a priority for Vermont”
[VT Digger]

“I don’t believe this is a priority for Vermont,” Gov. Scott claimed, ignoring the damage that the pot laws do to the citizens and tax money of his state.

“I believe that what we should be doing is trying to find ways to protect those on our highways, deliver a level of impairment that is consistent throughout the Northeast, as well as to address the edibles for our kids, before we move forward with legalization,” Scott said. “Having said that, I’m going to review the bill as it’s passed.”

You can send Gov. Scott a message online by clicking here. You can also call his office at 802. 828.3333 or fax 802.828.3339.

Other states have legalized recreational marijuana following a voter referendum, but no state has legalized marijuana through the legislative process, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Democratic Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman:
“I think it reflects that Vermont elected officials are more in touch with our constituents”
[VPR]

“I think it reflects that Vermont elected officials are more in touch with our constituents than a lot of elected officials in other states,” said Democratic Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, reports April McCullum at the Burlington Free Press. Zuckerman has worked on marijuana issues for the majority of his political career. “I think the public is ahead of us, but elected officials tend to be cautious when it comes to change,” the lieutenant governor said.

The plan creates a commission to look at taxing and regulating pot in the future, but it doesn’t give Vermonters any legal way to purchase it.

The House of Representatives voted 79-66 Wednesday to concur with the version of S. 22 that passed last Friday in the Senate. Beginning in July 2018, it would eliminate Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana and remove penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants.

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Rep. Barbara Rachelson:
“There’s no slam dunk of any kind”
[VT Digger]

The bill would also create a nine-member study commission to develop legislation to regulate and tax marijuana for adult use. The Marijuana Regulatory Commission would include two members of the House of Representatives and one member of the public appointed by House Speaker Mitzi Johnson; two members of the Senate and one member of the public appointed by the Senate’s Committee on Committees; Attorney General T.J. Donovan or his designee; Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts or his designee; and one member appointed by Gov. Phil Scott.

“The administration will be at the table, along with the attorney general and others,” said Rep. Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee. “With Massachusetts and Maine starting up in 2018, I think we need to continue this conversation.”

“There’s no slam dunk of any kind,” said Rep. Barbara Rachelson (D-Burlington), a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “It just is doing work that could be used next year or in subsequent years.”

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Matt Simon, Marijuana Policy Project:
“Is he really willing to veto it? I don’t know but I’m hell-bent on finding out”
[VT Digger]

“Vermont lawmakers made history today,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “The Legislature has taken a crucial step toward ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition. There is no rational reason to continue punishing adults for consuming a substance that is safer than alcohol.

“It’s time for Vermont to move forward with a more sensible marijuana policy,” Simon said. “The voters and the Legislature are behind it, and we hope the governor will be, too.”

Responding to a May 6 Facebook comment that “the bill will not make it this session,” Simon had expressed the kind of determination that resulted in the bill’s passage. “I wish I had a nickel for every naysayer who has told me ‘the bill will not make it this session’,” Simon said at the time. “Regardless of what happens, it’s a damned good bill and I’m proud to have worked on it. If the legalization language approved by both chambers of the Vermont Legislature does fall short of passing into law this year, it won’t be because we let naysayers talk us out of making the effort.

“I want to see this bill on the governor’s desk,” Simon said. “Is he really willing to veto it? I don’t know but I’m hell-bent on finding out.”

Fifty-seven percent of Vermont voters support allowing adults 21 and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana, according to a statewide survey of 755 registered voters conducted in March by Public Policy Polling. Only 39 percent are opposed.

 

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