Just when Vermont was about to make history, the governor stepped in.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, is vetoing a bill to legalize marijuana. His reasoning may be odd but at least he isn’t fundamentally opposed to legalized weed. But he is sending the bill back to the legislature for changes.
“We must get this right,” Scott said at a press conference. He then said something that makes people familiar with climate deniers and religious zealots groan.”I think we need to move a little bit slower.” He was quick to clarify that is views cannabis “through a libertarian lens” so isn’t trying to prevent legalization in principal.
Scott claimed that his actions are due to concerns about detecting and penalizing impaired drivers. He also cited protecting children, and the role and makeup of a Marijuana Regulatory Commission as areas he felt the bill didn’t do well enough.
When the door closes, look for a window.
“I recognize there is a clear societal shift in that direction.” The governor said. He plans to send recommended changes to the Democratic-majority legislature. If they address his concerns, the governor claims “there is a path forward on this issue.” One point that the governor wants defined is “how impaired is too impaired,” according to the governor’s communications director.
He also wants the legislation to define what devices might be effective at detecting people high on marijuana. But police “do not yet have reliable roadside toxicology tests that can say for sure if someone’s too high to drive in the way a breathalyzer or blood test can show if someone’s too drunk.”
Despite recreational use being illegal up till now, the Vermont Department of Health found that the state has among the “highest prevalence of marijuana use” in the country. The Vermont DOH also claims the state has the most users across all age groups, and the second highest of all states among those age 12 to 25.
Vermont was almost 9th and 1st.
If the bill hadn’t been vetoed, Vermont would have become the 9th state to legalize recreational marijuana. But it would have been the first to have done so via a legislative body. Everyone else has used a public referendum. In November, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada voters legalized recreational pot.
Vermont joints Arizona voters as the only states to have rejected it. But the Green Mountain State looks to be a lot closer to getting adjusted legislation passed. Partly because of the cooperation of the state house and senate on this issue so far. While it was difficult to come to a compromise before, the governors demands seem to be road bumps instead of roadblocks.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states have pending legislation to legalize marijuana for adults. And more than half of states allow medical use of marijuana. Hope is not lost for Vermont though. With a few tweaks, the legislation may be able to make it back to the governor’s desk. Only this time, let’s hope he actually signs it.