Green Mountain State Goes Rocky Mountain High
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Gov. 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. He did so Monday afternoon.
"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 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." He also said "the main thing is I will sign it."