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Friday, September 17, 2021

Vermont becomes 11th state to legalize marijuana sales

MONTPELIER — Governor Phil Scott today announced action on a range of bills, including the Legislature’s bill to create a regulated cannabis market in Vermont, which will be allowed to go into law without his signature.

In 2018, lawmakers depenalized the possession and cultivation of small quantities of marijuana by adults, but not commercial activities involving cannabis production or sales.

Ten other states that already legalized adult-use marijuana possession also regulated the retail cannabis market.

Today, Vermont became the eleventh to do so.

Throughout the Legislature’s four-year push to create a regulated cannabis market, Governor Scott called for any legislation to include a plan and funding for expanded education and prevention programs for Vermont kids, a plan for highway safety, and the ability for communities to prohibit retail cannabis businesses.

Governor Scott said the Legislature has moved slowly toward his position in these areas.

“This new bill requires cities and towns to authorize these businesses before retail establishments may open,” the Governor said. “It ensures local zoning applies to cannabis cultivation and production. It dedicates 30 percent of the excise tax, up to $10 million per year, to education and prevention efforts. And the sales and use tax on cannabis would fund a grant program to expand afterschool and summer learning programs.”

The Governor also highlighted several new provisions aimed to enhance safety on the roadways, including allowing testimony of trained officers and Drug Recognition Experts regarding impairment to be presumed admissible in court, and accepting saliva testing as evidence if performed.

Though these provisions addressed many of Governor Scott’s longstanding concerns, he also called for additional action from the Legislature to address remaining deficiencies in the bill.

“The Legislature needs to strengthen education and prevention, including banning marketing that appeals in any way to our kids,” Scott said.

Scott also noted concerns from communities most negatively affected by cannabis enforcement, saying that the bill did not do enough to ensure more equity in this new market.

He encouraged legislators to revisit these concerns and work with his administration and these communities to address them in January.

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