History was made when Vermont became the first state to legislate recreational marijuana legalization. The bill was passed by the Democrat-controlled state House and Senate and signed by Republican Governor Phil Scott.
Accomplishing legalization legislatively was always recognized as a more difficult endeavor. Entrenched incumbents, who had been elected in the decades before marijuana legalization was supported by a majority of the public, had consistently opposed it.
Thus, until now, the path to recreational marijuana legislation had always avoided the legislative process. The eight states that had legalized recreational marijuana previously have done so through ballot measures passed directly by the voters, circumventing inveterate politicians.
Vermont was forced to consider legislation because of the lack of a ballot initiative process in the state. Nonetheless, the fact that the state was able to legalize recreational marijuana in a bipartisan manner is a major sign of legalization’s increasing acceptance.
Vermont was first to legislate marijuana legalization, but…
While a historic achievement for the pro-legalization movement, the law doesn’t provide for full recreational marijuana legalization and rather serves as more of a decriminalization. This first round of decriminalization is in actuality only a first step towards eventual legalization.
The law will eliminate penalties for personal marijuana possession of one ounce or less, allow for adults 21 years and older to have up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants.
Public consumption and private sales remain against the law.
Unlike the original legislation passed by the legislature, and vetoed by Governor Scott last year, there is no longer a component that will create a commission to study and propose legislation to regulate and tax marijuana for personal use. That was one of they key components that Governor Scott opposed and was taken out in order to gain his signature.
Additional legislation will still need to be provided to legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana.
Despite those numerous caveats, Vermont is the first state to legislate recreational marijuana legalization. The legislation will officially go into effect on July 1st of this year.
By signing this bill, Governor Phil Scott has set Vermont on an irreversible course towards full legalization of marijuana.
(Photo of the view north at the north end of New York State Route 22A and the south end of Vermont State Route 22A, entering Fair Haven, Rutland County, Vermont from Hampton, Washington County, New York taken on 11 September 2017, by Famartin via Wikipedia)