Phil Scott, the first-term Republican governor of Vermont, has until Wednesday to act on a bill that would make his state the ninth in the nation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
The secretary of the Vermont Senate delivered the legislation to Mr. Scott Thursday, thereby giving the governor until the end of Wednesday, May 24, to decide the fate of legal weed within the Green Mountain state.
The bill, S. 22, removes criminal and civil penalties for minor pot possession, allows residents to grow a limited number of marijuana plants and creates a commission tasked with eventually establishing a system for state-regulated sales. It’ll take effect July 2018 unless Mr. Scott vetoes it before Wednesday’s end.
With only days left to decide the bill’s outcome, however, Mr. Scott acknowledged as recently as Wednesday that he isn’t sure if he’ll give it the green light.
“It’s been no secret, the way I’ve felt about it, the marijuana legalization in general,” Mr. Scott said Wednesday, according to The Barre Montpelier Times Argus newspaper. “I said on the campaign trail I’m not philosophically opposed to it but I do believe that highway safety needs to be kept in mind. I’m not sure the time is right now, but I want to look at the bill.”
While voters in eight states and the nation’s capital have legalized recreational marijuana in recent years, Vermont this month became the first in the country to use its state legislature, not a ballot measure, to legalize weed.
“I think it reflects that Vermont elected officials are more in touch with our constituents than a lot of elected officials in other states,” Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a member of the Vermont Progressive Party, said after lawmakers in the state House passed the bill by a 79-66 vote last week following a similarly successful vote in the state Senate.
Marijuana remains prohibited under federal law, though laws for medical or recreational use are on the books in 29 states and counting.