Pubdate: Thu, 25 May 2017
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Jon Kamp


Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said Wednesday he is vetoing a bill that would
have made the state the first to legalize marijuana through
legislation rather than a ballot measure, but he also left the door
open for legalization.

The bill, passed by the Vermont House and Senate, would have made it
legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana
and grow a limited amount starting in mid-2018. The bill also called
for a commission to propose yet-more legislation that could have
created a taxed, regulated market later on.

Mr. Scott, a Republican, said he views the issue through a
"libertarian lens" and isn't philosophically opposed to ending the
prohibition on pot. But he said he has problems with the current bill
and urged lawmakers to quickly make changes, including tough penalties
for consumption while driving with children and sales to minors.

"We must get this right," the governor said during a press conference.
"There is a path forward on this issue."

The bill passed by a slim margin in the house, making it difficult to
overturn the veto. Mr. Scott urged lawmakers to work on a new bill in
a veto session this summer.

Eight other states have thus far legalized the drug through voter 
referendums, including two New England states last November: 
Massachusetts and Maine. The new market in Massachusetts in 
particular-the most populous New England state borders four others in 
the region-has sparked pushes for legalization among its neighbors.

Matt Simon, New England political director for the anti-prohibition
group Marijuana Policy Project, said he expects Vermont lawmakers to
work with the governor, and believes the mid-2018 legalization goal is
still achievable.

"The governor sounds very sincere in his statement that he'll work
with the legislature this summer," Mr. Simon said. "We're actually
very encouraged by this despite the veto."

Elsewhere in New England, Connecticut Democrats are also pushing to
legalize recreational marijuana as part of a budget plan to close a
$5.1 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years. They estimate
legalization would net nearly $200 million in annual tax revenue for
the state.

The odds for passage there are unclear. Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy
has opposed recreational pot, and the state's Republican lawmakers
have said the Democrats' revenue projections look too rosy.

Advocates are also pushing for legalization in Rhode Island. A bill to
tax and regulate recreational pot has stalled, though there is support
for a commission to study the issue.

Jared Moffat, director of the pro-legalization group Regulate Rhode
Island, is hopeful the state will soon embrace a Vermont-style
approach instead. That way, he said, Rhode Island would legalize the
drug, while also studying how to create a retail market, instead of
deciding whether such a market should exist.

"That's our hope," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Matt