Vermont Governor Phil Scott OKs Bill Creating Regulated Cannabis Market

VERMONT: Governor Phil Scott today announced action on a range of bills, including the Legislature’s bill to create a regulated cannabis market in Vermont, which will be allowed to go into law without his signature.

Throughout the Legislature’s four-year push to create a regulated cannabis market, Governor Scott has consistently called for any legislation to include a plan and funding for expanded education and prevention programs for Vermont kids, a plan for highway safety and the ability for communities to prohibit retail cannabis businesses. Governor Scott said the Legislature has moved slowly toward his position in these areas.

“This new bill requires cities and towns to authorize these businesses before retail establishments may open. It ensures local zoning applies to cannabis cultivation and production. It dedicates 30% of the excise tax, up to $10 million per year, to education and prevention efforts. And the sales and use tax on cannabis would fund a grant program to expand after school and summer learning programs,” the Governor said. “Additionally, the FY21 budget includes language I proposed to move toward a universal after school network, which is based on a successful model from Iceland and is focused on preventing drug use and improving academic and social outcomes.”

The Governor also highlighted several new provisions to enhance safety on the roadways, including allowing testimony of trained officers and Drug Recognition Experts regarding impairment to be presumed admissible in court, and accepting saliva testing as evidence if performed.

Though these provisions addressed many of Governor Scott’s longstanding concerns, he also called for additional action from the Legislature to address remaining deficiencies in the bill.

“Their work is not done,” he said. “The Legislature needs to strengthen education and prevention – including banning marketing that appeals in any way to our kids – otherwise they are knowingly failing to learn the lessons of the public health epidemic caused by tobacco and alcohol.”

While recognizing that some social justice elements are included in the bill, Governor Scott also noted concerns from communities historically most negatively affected by cannabis enforcement that the bill did not do enough to ensure more equity in this new market. He encouraged legislators to revisit these concerns and work with his Administration and these communities to address them in January.

His letter to the Legislature outlines specific areas for consideration on racial equity, changes to the board appointment timeline and accountability structure, creation of a special fund for education programming and a ban on the sale of vaping products and marketing that appeal to kids.

“This has been a top priority for the majority in the Legislature for four years, but their work is not complete. They must ensure equity in this new policy and prevent their priority from becoming a public health problem for current and future generations. For these reasons, I am allowing this bill to become law without my signature,” concluded Governor Scott.

Click here to view the Governor’s letter to the Legislature regarding S.54.

Governor Scott also allowed S.119 to go into law without his signature, noting he agreed with the goals of the legislation but urged lawmakers to revisit the hastily drafted bill with additional input from marginalized communities and public safety officials.

Click here to view the Governor’s letter to the Legislature regarding S.119.

In addition, Governor Scott signed several other bills today:

  • S.24, An act relating to a report on racial equity and bias in the Department of Corrections, which accelerates work to develop a racial equity plan that will include data collection, employment and supervision of people under the custody of the Department of Corrections;
  • S. 124, An act relating to governmental structures protecting the public health, safety and welfare, which makes changes to law enforcement training and policy;
  • S.234, An act relating to miscellaneous judiciary procedures, which orders the expungement of all criminal records relating to the possession of cannabis in amounts that have been decriminalized; and
  • S.352, An act relating to making certain amendments to the Front-Line Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program, which updates the hazard pay program passed earlier this year.

To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2020 legislative session, visit https://governor.vermont.gov/governor-scotts-blog/2020-legislative-session.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott Signs H. 511 Legalizing Marijuana For Adult Use

VERMONT:  On January 22nd, 2018 Governor Phil Scott signed H. 511, An act relating to eliminating penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older, into law.

Read his full message to the General Assembly below:

“Today, with mixed emotions, I have signed H. 511.

“As I said when I vetoed S. 22 in May, 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 decriminalizes, for adults 21 and older, personal possession of no more than 1 ounce, and cultivation of 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.  Schools, employers, municipalities and landlords are also empowered to adopt policies and ordinances further restricting the cultivation and use.

“In addition, when we negotiated a compromise prior to the veto session in June, I insisted the legislation also include:

  • 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;
  • Stronger penalties and fines for open containers in a motor vehicle; and
  • Marijuana in excess of the permitted limit remains contraband and subject to seizure and forfeiture.

“H. 511 included these additional protections.

“My S.22 veto message 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. It is important for the General Assembly to know that – 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.

“More importantly, as I noted in my State of the State address, I ask the General Assembly to now turn its efforts to addressing more significant issues faced by Vermonters in their daily lives.”

Click here to view the letter sent to the General Assembly.