On Monday, January 22nd, 2018, Vermont Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, signed into law H.511, which makes legal the personal cultivation of two mature cannabis plants and four juveniles. The bill also legalizes the possession of less than one ounce of pot. With Scott signing this bill, Vermont became the first state to legalize cannabis without a public vote.

The governor had “mixed emotions” over putting his signature on the bill, but approximately 60% of Vermonters favor legalization, and without his signing off on legislation that was rushed through the State Senate and House, Scott would have faced a hard time winning a second term in office.

Vermont has not attempted to deal with what a cannabis business will look like within the state. Until now, dispensaries have all been non-profit. It may be slow going coming up with a plan that will keep everyone satisfied. Currently, the focus will be on keeping Vermont
youth safe and on traffic control and safety under the new law. Vermont State Senator Jeanette White has championed legalization
for the past several years. In an email, the Senator wrote:

“I realize this is not the regulation bill that many of us preferred but to have the legislature pass and the Governor sign this bill is an indication that our attitudes toward marijuana are finally beginning to become a bit more rational. Vermont is the first state to do this through the Legislature. It took a long time but we should be proud of that. When we first passed cannabis as symptom relief there were
many who were shaking in their boots. They found out the sky did not fall. The same will happen here. And I do believe that by next year we will see increased interest in passing a system that will regulate and tax marijuana as a product. I look forward to that next step. And Kudos to all those outside the statehouse who worked so tirelessly on this issue – we couldn’t have done it without you.”

Tourism plays an enormous role in the health of the Vermont economy. With legalization beginning on July 1st, Vermont will be able to offer the ability to partake in cannabis at the many, weddings, concerts and events that attract people to the state year after year. As a
Vermonter, I am gratified to see that, despite the concerns, some justified some irrational, our elected officials were able to understand and accept the will of the people. With the growing number of states and the District of Columbia passing legislation, it is only a matter of time before critical mass is reached and cannabis becomes legal on the Federal level.

Now steps need to be taken to release individuals who have been incarcerated for cannabis charges with commutation of all non-violent cannabis-related convictions and sentences. Vermont would not be the first to do this. San Francisco has already begun the process.

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