Republican Governor Becomes The Latest to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

January 22, 2018Jan 22, 2018

Vermont just became the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana. It's now legal for adults to be in the possession and consume marijuana after Governor Phil Scott signed it into law.

The Republican governor's action makes Vermont the seventh state to legalize recreational marijuana. However, Vermont is unique because this is the first time a state legislature has voted to legalize the drug.

The other six states where adults may legally possess and consume marijuana—Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, and California—all used voter-approved ballot measures to legalize the drug.

The Vermont law takes effect on July 1st. Massachusetts and Maine will legalize also marijuana later this year after voters passed ballot initiatives in 2016.

“This is a milestone in the evolving politics of marijuana,” said Tom Angell, a legalization advocate who writes the "Marijuana Moment" newsletter.

Last year, Scott, who is a first-term Republican, vetoed a legalization bill passed by the Democratic-led state legislature. He vetoed is based on "concerns over how it was written, though he pledged to work with the legislature to address those issues before this year’s session kicked off," reported The Hill.

The Vermont law is more restrictive than the six other states. It only allows adults over the age of 21 to possess an ounce of marijuana. They may also grow up to two of their own plants at home.

The bill, however, does not allow legal sales of marijuana. Scott said he would veto bill if the sale of marijuana was added "without first adding significant elements to combat young people using marijuana and to bolster traffic safety."

Scott also said he signed the bill “with mixed emotions.”

In a letter to legislators, Scott said his veto of the earlier bill made clear “my reservations about a commercial system which depends on profit motive and market-driven demand for its growth.”

Scott vowed to veto any additional efforts to loosen the regulation of marijuana without first addressing "highway safety, education efforts, and prevention of youth consumption."

Kevin Sabet, who heads the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which is against the legalization of marijuana, said the fact that the law does not allow the sale of marijuana in the state is a setback to the legalization movement.

“By signing this, the Governor essentially killed any chance of full legalization,” Sabet told The Hill in an email. “In so many ways, this is a big setback for the pot industry. Vermont will be off-limits to them for the foreseeable future.”

The state legislature passed the measure by wide margins last week.

At least two other state legislatures are considering steps toward legalizing marijuana. Rhode Island’s legislature is likely to take up a bill later this year, though whether it has sufficient support to pass is unclear. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has said he supports legalizing marijuana, though Democrats in the state legislature have raised their own objections.

In other news, the White House issued a statement following the end of the shutdown

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