Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) vetoed a bill on Wednesday that would have legalized recreational marijuana.
The bill would have made it legal for anyone over 21 to possess and grow cannabis.
Scott cited concerns about public safety, seeking changes to the bill that would include more aggressive penalties for driving while impaired or in the presence of children. The governor is also calling for an expansion of a commission that would develop a proposal to tax and regulate marijuana. He wants it to include representatives from the Vermont departments of Public Safety, Health and Taxes as well as the substance abuse prevention and treatment community.
“We must get this right,” said Scott during a press conference, adding, “I’m not philosophically opposed to ending the prohibition on marijuana.”
Matt Simon, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project responded to the governor’s decision, “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. Lawmakers have an opportunity to address the governor’s concerns and pass a revised bill this summer, and we are excited about its prospects.” A new bill could be introduced as early as July.
Studies by the Vermont Department of Health have found that Vermont has among the highest prevalence of marijuana use in the country and the second-highest use among people ages 12 to 25.
Eight other states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational marijuana. Vermont would have been the ninth state to legalize recreational cannabis, but the first state to legalize marijuana through a state legislature rather than by public referendum.
Nearly 20 states have bills pending that would legalize adult-use marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
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