Pubdate: Mon, 22 Jan 2018
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2018 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Wilson Ring


MONTPELIER, Vt. - Governor Phil Scott on Monday privately signed
Vermont's marijuana bill into law, making the state the first in the
country to authorize the recreational use of the substance by an act
of a state legislature.

The law, which goes into effect July 1, allows adults to possess up to
1 ounce of marijuana, two mature and four immature plants.

Vermont will become the ninth state in the country, along with
Washington, D.C, to approve the recreational use of marijuana. The
other states and Washington authorized the recreational use of
marijuana through a vote of residents. Vermont law contains no
mechanism that allows for a citizen referendum.

The Republican governor had until the end of the day Monday to sign
the bill. His office issued a statement Monday afternoon saying he had
signed the bill.

''Today, with mixed emotions, I have signed'' the bill he said. ''I
personally believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on
private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively
impact the health and safety of others, especially children.''

The law contains no mechanism for the taxation or sale of marijuana,
although the Legislature is expected to develop such a system.

Vermont's move is an incremental reform that will have little impact
for most people in the state, said Matt Simon, New England political
director for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.

''I think the vast majority of Vermonters won't notice any change at
all,'' Simon said. ''It's simply eliminating a fine and eliminating a
penalty for growing a small number of plants.''

The new law is unlikely to prompt people who don't now smoke marijuana
to take it up, said Robert Sand, a Vermont law school professor and
former county prosecutor who has advocated for years to change the
state's drug laws.

''Realistically anyone who wanted to try it has tried it,'' Sand

There will be times when people misuse marijuana and opponents will
cite the incidents as evidence that legalization was not a good thing,
he said.

''I believe we will end up with a net improvement of public health and
safety even though I recognize there will be some bad outcomes,'' Sand

The Vermont Legislature passed a similar proposal last spring, but
Scott vetoed it, citing practical concerns. Lawmakers revised the
proposal to do more to protect children and enhance highway safety.

The revised bill passed both chambers this month.

Recreational use of marijuana already has passed in Maine and
Massachusetts, and both states are awaiting the implementation of
systems to tax and regulate marijuana.

New Hampshire's House gave preliminary approval to a bill earlier this
month that would allow adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana
and to cultivate it in limited quantities, even though a commission
studying the issue won't finish its work until next fall.

Scott said last week he was declining to hold a bill signing ceremony
because ''some people don't feel that this is a momentous occasion.''
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