Vermont governor snuffs legal pot, tells
lawmakers to 'get it right'
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[May 25, 2017]
By Peter Szekely
(Reuters) - Vermont's governor on Wednesday
halted, at least temporarily, efforts to become the ninth state to
legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but offered to work with
state legislators to resolve what he cited as the bill's shortcomings.
In vetoing the measure to decriminalize possession of small amounts of
the drug for adults and to pave the way for a regulated market in the
state, Republican Governor Phil Scott stressed he was not
philosophically opposed to the concept, which he said he views "through
a libertarian lens."
But in an effort to "get it right," he said the bill needs to improve
protections for children and motorists.
"I want to reiterate that we can all work together on this issue in a
thoughtful and responsible way," the governor said at his weekly news
conference in Montpelier.
Scott said the bill should "make clear" that there will be no change in
current penalties for giving or selling the drug to minors under 21 or
near schools, and it should have stiffer penalties for smoking marijuana
while driving or in front of children.
The Marijuana Regulatory Commission the bill would create needs to
include police, health and tax collecting representatives, and should be
responsible for coming up with impairment limits for drivers, testing
mechanisms, and education and prevention programs for minors, he added.
"If the legislature agrees to make the changes I am seeking, we can move
this discussion forward in a way that ensures the public health and
safety of our communities and our children continues to come first,"
The Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group, said it was
disappointed, but held out hope that the governor and legislators would
reach a compromise.
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People roll a marijuana joint on the informal cannabis holiday,
4/20, corresponding to the numerical figure widely recognized within
the cannabis subculture as a symbol for all things marijuana, on the
Common in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brian
"Most Vermonters want to end marijuana prohibition, and it is
critical that the legislature respond by passing a revised
legalization bill this summer," said Matt Simon, the group's New
England political director.
The bill, which won the approval of the state's House of
Representatives 79-66 and the state Senate 20-9, both of which are
controlled by Democrats, would have made Vermont the first state to
legalize recreational marijuana legislatively, instead of by popular
Of the eight states and the District of Columbia that have legalized
recreational marijuana, two - Massachusetts and Maine - are nearby,
while Canada, to Vermont's north, is considering legalization.
Marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law.
(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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