Marijuana plants flourish under the lights at a grow house in Denver. (Ed Andrieski/AP)
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) signed a bill Monday legalizing the possession and consumption of marijuana for recreational use in his state.
Scott’s signature makes Vermont the first state to approve recreational marijuana legislatively. Eight other states plus the District of Columbia have passed marijuana legalization measures via ballot initiative. Nationwide, 70 million people — more than 1 in 5 Americans — now live in legal marijuana states.
“I personally believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children,” Scott said in a statement, adding that he signed the bill with “mixed emotions.”
Unlike bills passed by voters in the other eight states, the law in Vermont does not allow for a commercial marijuana industry to be established there. Individuals may possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal consumption and grow up to six plants, but buying and selling the drug remains prohibited.
This is the Vermont state legislature’s second attempt to legalize marijuana for adult use. In 2017, the state legislature passed a similar bill that Scott vetoed, citing weak penalties for the sale of marijuana to minors and a need for more time to study other regulatory systems. The governor expressed a willingness to compromise and reconsider his position in early 2018 if his concerns were met.
Public health experts say the lack of a commercial market could be a good thing. Beau Kilmer, co-director of the Rand Corp.’s Drug Policy Research Center, said that Vermont’s law will “reduce adult marijuana arrests and prosecutions without creating a commercial model that promotes consumption.”
While marijuana is generally regarded as less harmful than other drugs such as alcohol or opioids, its use does