Vermont Governor Phil Scott has vetoed a bill to legalize marijuana, saying it’s possible a compromise could be reached during the summer.
Senate Bill 22 would have legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, and the personal cultivation of up to two mature plants (four immature), for those 21 and older. The measure was approved by the Senate 20 to 9, and by the House of Representatives 79 to 66. The proposal is the first legalization bill to ever be approved by a state legislature (the eight states with legal cannabis did so through the initiative process).
“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”, says Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Most Vermonters want to end marijuana prohibition, and it is critical that the legislature respond by passing a revised legalization bill this summer. Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and there is no good reason to continue treating responsible adult consumers like criminals.”
Simon continues; “Despite the veto, this is a huge leap forward. The passage of S. 22 demonstrates most members of both legislative chambers are ready to move forward with making marijuana legal for adults. Lawmakers have an opportunity to address the governor’s concerns and pass a revised bill this summer, and we are excited about its prospects.”
Governor Scott is asking for the bill to be altered to “more aggressively penalize” those driving under the influence of cannabis, and to increase penalties for those giving or selling marijuana to minors. Scott is also calling for “broader membership” of the proposed commission designed to study the potential legalization of cannabis retail outlets.