Vermont was set to become the 9th state in the country to legalize marijuana this month until Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the bill. The state would have been the first to legalize marijuana through legislature as opposed to a public vote but the bill didn’t quite measure up to the governor’s standards for public health and safety. According to ABC News, he has made it clear to the public that he is not specifically against legalizing marijuana but if they were to go ahead with ending prohibition, they would need stronger punishments in place for those who drove under the influence and more restrictions in place to keep marijuana away from children and teens.
Additional Changes Requested by Governor Scott
The governor also believes that Vermont’s Marijuana Regulatory Commission needs to have a range of members from various government departments, including health, taxes and public safety. He also indicated that a presence from those that specialized in substance abuse treatment would be very helpful. “I am not philosophically opposed to ending the prohibition on marijuana and I recognize there is a clear societal shift in that direction,” admitted Scott. “However, I feel it is crucial that key questions and concerns involving public safety and health are addressed before moving forward,” says Scott.
A Silver Lining
Supporters of the vetoed bill, were upset but still encouraged by the governor’s willingness to find a legislation that will work for everyone. ”We are disappointed by the governor’s decision to veto this widely supported legislation, but we are very encouraged by the governor’s offer to work with legislators to pass a legalization bill during the summer veto session,” said Matt Simon, who is the political director of New England’s division of the marijuana advocacy group, Marijuana Policy Project.
The Appeal of Recreational Cannabis Legalization
The state already has a medical marijuana industry but the bill would have allowed adults over 21 to possess small quantities of marijuana for personal use. It would have made way for a recreational marijuana industry to set up shop in Vermont by 2018. New Frontier Data, a company that specializes in the marijuana industry, estimates that marijuana sales would have totaled approximately $179 million by 2015. The recreational marijuana industry has been bringing in millions of dollars in state tax revenue in states that have an operational industry in place, such as Washington, Oregon and Colorado. The revenue has been used on education, the community and to fund itself.
According to a recent survey done in Vermont by Public Policy Polling, 57 percent of Vermont residents are in favor of recreational marijuana legalization. There is the same sentiment across the country. According to recent surveys, 60 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana for personal use. There is a clear cry across the country to end prohibition and lawmakers have been responding accordingly, developing marijuana reform bills across the country. A few bills exist at a federal level, sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, to end prohibition. It seems only to be a matter of time before the transition is made, despite any delays that are faced in the meantime.