After a false start in 2017, Vermont became the first state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana through legislative process. Now, Vermont marijuana can be enjoyed by the masses.
The last time we checked in with Vermont, the state’s Senate and House had approved a bill that would allow adults to possess and grow recreational marijuana. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has now signed House Bill 511 into law, making Vermont the first state in the nation to authorize recreational marijuana use via the act of a state legislature rather than by use of a ballot measure.
One of the most politically liberal states in the nation, Vermont marijuana — of the medical variety — became legal in 2004, and recently they decriminalized possession of small amounts of recreational pot. While state lawmakers passed a recreational marijuana bill last year, Gov. Scott vetoed it, arguing that it didn’t do enough to shield kids from the drug or protect against stoned drivers. Legislators made his requested changes, and Scott signed the new version into law “with mixed emotions” on January 22. The law will go into effect on July 1.
"As I said when I vetoed S. 22 in May, 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 self-described “libertarian” Scott said in a statement after signing the bill.
The new law, which is unrelated to the state’s existing medical marijuana program, will go into effect on July 1, 2018. Adults over 21 will be permitted to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, two mature marijuana plants, and four immature marijuana plants.
Laura Subin, director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, told USA Today that residents will likely be permitted to give marijuana, seeds, or plants to one another as gifts. But while New England neighbors Massachusetts and Maine are preparing for recreational weed sales this summer, the recent Vermont marijuana law limits pot sales to its registered medical marijuana patients — a regulation that Scott has little interest in changing.
As the Huffington Post reports, Scott has serious concerns about how a regulated recreational marijuana commercial market would work in Vermont. As a result, he has created his own marijuana task force, which is examining Vermont’s involvement in recreational pot sales and focusing on developing comprehensive strategies for education, prevention, and highway safety.
“There must be comprehensive and convincing plans completed in these areas before I will begin to consider the wisdom of implementing a commercial ‘tax-and-regulate’ system for an adult marijuana market,” he says. “It is important for the General Assembly to know that – until we have a workable plan to address each of these concerns – I will veto any additional effort along these lines, which manages to reach my desk.”
Vermont is now the ninth state in the country, along with Washington, D.C, to approve the recreational use of marijuana.