Vermont awaits decision from governor on legalization of pot

Rep. Mary Howard D-Rutland reads a letter of concern during debate Wednesday over marijuana legislation in the Vermont House. JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR  STAFF

If Scott signs the bill, Vermont would become the first state to legalize marijuana via legislation rather than a public referendum.

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.

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, crafted a compromise bill by adding a commission to the House's preferred legalization plan to study how to create a regulated retail market in Vermont.

The Senate gave its okay to a heavily-amended House Bill 1397, sending the measure back to the House for final approval. He has expressed some concerns over how legalization might affect public safety. The legislation now heads to Governor Phil Scott's desk to be signed. "I think he recognizes that the majority in our state support reform of these laws".

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The bill would change possessing up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana from a potential misdemeanor to a violation-level offense. They also support the state taxing and regulating recreational sales of the plant similarly to alcohol.

The vote came a day after Vermont's legislature became the first in the nation to approve legalizing marijuana. Legalization advocates said bills were pending in other state legislatures.

The bill's success is especially significant for Simon, who advocated for legalization during the state's failed attempt to get a marijuana bill through the legislature previous year. Those sales would be regulated and taxed through state-licensed facilities, as MA and ME plan to handle it. We have four other states that have legalized right now.We'll learn from them. "The Legislature has taken a crucial step toward ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition".

Governor Christie's recent tirade about how marijuana legalization is a ploy to "poison our kids" is just the latest in a cornucopia of anti-pot swill to coming spilling from the mouth of this Republican.

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Opponents of the bill said it would send the wrong message to youth, especially with the state in the middle of a deep drug addiction crisis.

In the past, Governor Scott says legalizing marijuana should not be a top priority and that he's concerned it could negatively impact highway safety.

He says there needs to be certain provisions in place, including roadside testing for impaired drivers and more Drug Recognition Experts on the ground. But a statement he released afterward left some members of the state-legal marijuana industry on edge, as the president appeared to signal that he could ignore those protections.

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