July 21, 2019

With ‘mixed emotions,’ Scott signs pot legalization

Observer staff report

Gov. Phil Scott on Monday signed H.511 into law, legalizing the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana in Vermont beginning July 1.

Below, read his message to legislators upon signing the bill, as well as reaction from groups opposed to and in favor of the law.

Statement from Gov. Scott

“Today, with mixed emotions, I have signed H. 511 … 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. In this context, it is very important to understand what H. 511 does and does not do.

“While this legislation eliminates penalties for adult (age 21 and up) possession of no more than one ounce, and cultivation of no more than two mature plants on their private property, marijuana remains a controlled substance in Vermont and its sale is prohibited. Also, consumption of marijuana in public places is prohibited. Consumption of marijuana by operators and passengers in a motor vehicle is prohibited. And schools, employers, municipalities and landlords are also empowered to adopt policies and ordinances further restricting the cultivation and use.

“The legislation also include(s) stronger criminal and civil penalties for selling to or enabling the consumption of marijuana by someone under 21; criminal penalties for using marijuana in a motor vehicle with a child present; criminal penalties for using or growing marijuana at facilities serving children; clear legal liability of the consequences of making marijuana available to minors; strict penalties for possession of marijuana by those convicted of felony sale of marijuana, selling a regulated drug to minors, or on school grounds; and stronger penalties and fines for open containers in a motor vehicle.

“My veto of (last year’s) S.22 also plainly expressed my reservations about a commercial system which depends on profit motive and market driven demand for its growth. I look forward to the Marijuana Advisory Commission addressing the need to develop comprehensive education, prevention and highway safety strategies. To be very direct: There must be comprehensive and convincing plans completed in these areas before I will begin to consider the wisdom of implementing a commercial ‘tax and regulate’ system for an adult marijuana market. … Until we have a workable plan to address each of these concerns, I will veto any additional effort along these lines which manages to reach my desk. “

Statement from Matt Simon, New England political director of the Marijuana Policy Project

“Adults in Vermont no longer need to fear being fined or criminalized for low-level marijuana possession and cultivation. This is a great step forward for the state and the whole region. Responsible adults will soon have the freedom to enjoy a safer option legally, and law enforcement will be free to concentrate on serious crimes with actual victims. We are looking forward to working with lawmakers and state leaders to continue improving marijuana laws in the Green Mountain State.”

Statement from Smart Approaches to Marijuana

“While we always oppose any legalization measure that will inevitably increase use rate among our youth and make our roads more dangerous, we recognize that since H.511 stops short of legalizing sales, it can be seen as a compromise.

“We will await the final report from the Governor’s Marijuana Commission. After reading the preliminary report released on Jan. 16, we feel confident that the departments of health and public safety share our concerns with full legalization, and support the need for a cautious approach.

“We look forward to continuing to our work in Vermont and collaborating with medical professionals, educators and law enforcement communities to educate Vermonters on the dangers that legalization poses.”

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