Up In Smoke: Vermont’s ‘Libertarian’ Governor Snuffs Legal Weed Bill

The Green Mountain State would have been the first in the U.S. to approve recreational marijuana through the legislative process

Photo Illustration: Diana Quach
May 24, 2017 at 12:40 PM ET

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said on Wednesday he would not sign a bill to allow the use of recreational marijuana in his state, halting what would have been an historic first in the movement to legalize America’s favorite illicit drug.

With a stroke of his pen, Scott will stop the Green Mountain State from becoming the ninth in the U.S. to permit the adult use of legal weed. Scott, a Republican, touted his “libertarian streak” and said he was not “philosophically opposed” to legal marijuana during the highly-anticipated press conference where he announced his decision. But he said that lawmakers had not managed to address certain public safety issues in their legislation.

Earlier this month, lawmakers in Vermont became the first legislative body in the U.S. to approve a recreational marijuana measure. The eight other states, as well as Washington, D.C., have legalized weed through voter-approved referenda and not the legislative process.

Under Vermont’s proposed bill, which was approved with bipartisan support, people 21 or older would have been able to possess up to one ounce of weed beginning in 2018 and grow as many as six pot plants. The measure would have also created a study commission to begin to explore how to regulate a retail marijuana market in the state, such as the ones that now exist in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.

In 2004, Vermont became one of the first states in the U.S. to allow the use of medical marijuana, which is sold at regulated weed dispensaries. Despite advocates acknowledging that Wednesday’s decision to reject the state legislature’s recreational measure was in play, they still hailed the effort as a watershed moment in the legalization movement.

“We are now at a point where the issue has become so popular with voters that more politicians are feeling comfortable enough to grapple with it themselves,” Tom Angell, the founder of Marijuana Majority, a national advocacy group, told Vocativ earlier this month.