Ending the week on a high note — literally! The Vermont Senate passed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana use, making the state the first in the nation to do so through the legislative process rather than a ballot initiative.
Republican Gov. Phil Scott has indicated he will soon sign the measure into law, but back in May, he revealed he was on the fence about signing the controversial document. In an interview with the Burlington Free Press, he said, "I'm not philosophically opposed to it," adding that he wanted any legal marijuana system to address highway safety and protecting children from edible marijuana products. "I'm not sure that the time is right now," he continued. "Public opinion obviously matters, but again, I have to do what I think is right for the state throughout from a public safety standpoint."
The Vermont bill would allow those 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, two adult plants, and four immature plants beginning on July 1. It does not, however, immediately clear the way for retail sales of the drug.
GOP Sen. Randy Brock of Franklin, VT — who was recently appointed to fill a vacancy — said he voted against the bill after hearing opposition from medical professionals, law enforcement officials, and educators. He also was concerned that legalization would conflict with federal law. "This is a federal question," Randy said. "It needs to be decided federally."
Matt Simon, New England political director for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, disagreed. "Vermont, in particular, doesn't care very much what the attorney general thinks," he said. "With the way this bill is written, having a few plants, there's nothing that the feds could do even if they wanted to."
If Phil signs the bill, Vermont will join eight states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, Washington — and the District of Columbia where possession of small amounts of marijuana are legal for recreational use. Happy Friday!