The list of American states that have legalized cannabis welcomes a new member: Vermont.
Republican Governor Phil Scott announced that he is allowing the cannabis legalization bill to become law without his signature, according to a press release from the governor’s office. Cannabis sales in Vermont are not expected to begin until October 2022.
Although Vermont legalized cannabis possession and consumption in 2018, legislators at the time refused to authorize any framework for the legal production and sale of cannabis for adult use.
In September, Vermont legislators gave final approval to the implementation of cannabis production and sales.
The importance of Vermont’s decision to legalize and regulate cannabis sales, particularly in a state with a Republican governor and through the legislative process, cannot be overstated,” said Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) Executive Director Steven Hawkins.
This is a historic decision that adds to the momentum of our movement and underscores its breadth and depth, and most importantly, it comes at a time when other state legislatures are about to consider legalization soon.
Although Scott refused to sign Bill SB54, stating that it did not address his many concerns, he nonetheless allowed the measure to become law. He summarized his doubts in a letter to the Senate :
- He believes the new law provides an “uneven playing field,” which he says “will disproportionately benefit existing Vermont clinics.
- He is not convinced that steaming is not a threat to public health.
- He would have liked stricter marketing conditions to prevent cannabis from being attractive to minors.
- He considered the schedule “aggressive” for the appointment of members of the cannabis control board by January 8, 2021.
- He advises increased funding and training for law enforcement to deal with the potential increase in impaired drivers.
The governor signed a separate bill, Senate Bill 234, which facilitates the automatic disbarment of small cannabis convictions. The law will come into effect on January 1, 2021. The measure is expected to remove the criminal records of more than 10,000 people convicted of possession of 56 grams or less of cannabis. Separate provisions in the bill reduce the penalties for offenses involving possession of more than 28g but less than 56g of cannabis and cultivation of three plants to a civil fine.
Only Washington D.C. has legalized cannabis without regulating its sale.