Scott to create marijuana legalization commission

Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott speaks at a news conference Monday in Shelburne. Photo by Alexandre Silberman/VTDigger
SHELBURNE – Gov. Phil Scott plans to create an executive commission to study issues related to marijuana legalization in Vermont.

The panel will focus on safety impacts of legalization and may eventually look into sales and regulation. It will also spend time on youth education surrounding edible marijuana products and other forms of the drug.

“There are two, three bills that are still out there. This issue isn’t going away at this point, and it’s something that will be continuing,” Scott told reporters Monday.

The governor reiterated that highway impairment, road safety and education are his main concerns surrounding legalization.

The head of the commission, and its members, have yet to be named. Scott did not rule out the possibility of a legislative presence in the group and said he plans to announce more details within the next few weeks.

In May, Scott became the first governor in the nation to veto a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana. He sent S.22 back to the Legislature but said he would be willing to support the bill if changes were made.

Vermont lawmakers became the first to pass a bill to legalize marijuana. Eight states and the District of Columbia have done so through referendums.

The legislation would have removed all criminal and civil penalties for adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. It also would have allowed people to grow up to two flowering and four immature plants at home, starting in July 2018.

It also would have formed a commission charged with exploring the creation of a regulated pot market. Scott said at the time that he might create his own commission if the bill didn’t advance.

Compromise legislation addressing Scott’s concerns didn’t make it through the one-day veto session in June.

Scott has previously said he views legalization through a “libertarian lens” and believes adults should be able to make their own choices in private, as long as they don’t affect others.

Scott said Monday that he has been working with the Coalition of Northeast Governors to address some of the potential issues surrounding legalization.

The governor said he does not expect the commission to produce a report before the Legislature is back in session in January, adding that its recommendations are likely to come a year from now.

Scott said pivoting the focus to studying a legalized market is “the next step” and that the primary short-term focus will be safety.

“It’s happening all around us with Massachusetts, Maine, Canada. It’s certainly forming around us,” he said, listing other locations that have legalized marijuana or are moving toward it. “I just think it’s imperative that we stay ahead of the curve as best we can.”

Scott announced his plans while at a news conference at Fiddlehead Brewing in Shelburne to announce the third annual Young Professionals Summit of Vermont. The event will include a range of presentations, panels and sessions with leaders from around the state. Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell will deliver the keynote address.

Young professionals
Amanda O’Brien, left, and Laura Pierce, co-chairs of the Young Professionals Summit of Vermont, speak Monday at Fiddlehead Brewing in Shelburne. Photo by Alexandre Silberman/VTDigger
The summit is being led by co-chairs Amanda O’Brien and Laura Pierce, two 30-year-old Rutland natives who decided to return to Vermont after their careers took them to Chicago and New York.

“We’re looking to engage and support young professionals, as well as provide feedback to business and political leaders on how to best foster workplaces, and an economic landscape, that will help support young professionals and future generations,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien works remotely for a boutique strategy consulting firm, while Pierce works in project management for a health care software company.

Scott said he believes it is important for the state to invest in new industries, including the tech and craft brewery sectors.

“To grow this economy, we all need to go in the same direction and think outside the box. We need to listen to and learn from folks like you today,” he said, referring to the young professionals who were present.

Scott has attended the last two young professionals summits and said they help show young Vermonters that there are great career opportunities within the state.

“We’re not just a place to visit,” he said. “We’re a place to live and work.”

This year’s summit will be at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland on Sept. 9. More information about the event is available here.

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  • Tom E Canavan
  • The current government thought process is one can never have too many committees, commissions, or studies.

    • Michael Olcott

      OT,i know. Thats one of the reforms i would like to see made in our Legislature. An Amendment that says any and all bills will be moved to the floor after a short period,say 2-4weeks in a Committee. that would stop the Lobbyist’s from buying one key member and killing legislation.

    • Samuel Shultis

      Would a ‘Governor Stern’ end those make work programs/studies? If so, he has our votes!

  • Paul Richards

    Who is going to pay for the equipment that construction companies will need to test their employees every morning before they jump into the 48,000 pound excavator to move some dirt around their coworkers? Who is going to be responsible for the workman’s compensation bills and the legal bills when someone gets hurt or killed on the job site?

    • Rick Cowan

      The same person who tests them (or doesn’t) for alcohol or prescription drug use.

      • Paul Richards

        I’m not asking WHO is going to test them although that might be a good question as well.

        • robert bristow-johnson

          Then Rick’s answer is modified to: “The same person who pays to test these employees for alcohol or prescription drug use.”

          • Paul Richards

            So much for the huge windfall of tax money.

    • Michael Olcott

      Are those people tested everyday now? i am thinking that like any industry that sector of the labor force would lose a fair number if that was implemented. just a hunch.

      • Paul Richards

        And this will help how?

        • robert bristow-johnson

          you continue to sidestep the main question:

          are these operators of 24-ton excavators regularly subjected, 5 mornings each week, to breathalyzers or blood tests for alcohol or several prescription drugs that may impair their ability to safety operate heavy equipment before climbing into the cab of such excavator?

  • Matthew Davis

    It does seem ironic that the photo for this article shows the governor in front of several pallets of beer….

    Why is a commission necessary when several states have legalized recreational cannabis, we already have a model with regulated alcohol, and the state already has a medical cannabis system.

    This commission is more of the same from Phil Scott….kicking it down the road. The voters should show him the door in two years….

  • Edward Letourneau

    Make the law simple – You can be a dope head by Vt law, but the feds might get you. And if you can’t pass a drug test there is zero welfare of any kind for the potheads.

    That ought to solve a couple of problems with the people who don’t like living responsibly.

    • Michael Olcott

      Hey Moderators? just out of curiosity why is this language “dope heads” “potheads” allowed under your policy?

      As for the Original Poster; Sure, but lets make sure that everyone who is in the private sector be tested at the same frequency. In fact let’s be really sure that we drive these consumers of this evil plant further underground and demand that anyone who gets any sort of tax break or exemption be tested as well. Keeping CO,and CA out of the Banking system has worked out so well hasnt it. i mean your ilk can still use the violence with any cash based system as more propaganda for your side of the argument. you’re still wrong though morally and legislatively and this will be proven in history.

      • Edward Letourneau

        I’m old Vermonter. We have a tendency to call a spade a spade, and ignore objections of the PC crowd.

        • Michael Olcott

          sorry to give you such an easy cop out as an answer but as my comments often dont make it past the moderators i figured i would combine them. Thank you Sir for the insight to your POV. It’s been duly noted.enjoy your senior years.