Gov. Phil Scott says he’s about to convene a “blue ribbon commission” to study issues related to the legalization of marijuana.
In less than a year, retail outlets in Maine and Massachusetts will begin selling legal recreational marijuana to anyone 21 and older. Scott says he wants the new commission to help answer questions raised by the arrival of legal weed in nearby states.
“For me it’s to address some of the issues that I had initially about highway safety: How do we work with our neighbors? How do we make sure that we’re protecting the most vulnerable and our kids?” Scott says.
Vermont lawmakers were poised to establish a legalization commission of their own earlier this year, but the proposal never made it past the legislative finish line.
Bennington County Sen. Dick Sears is the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a vocal proponent of creating a legal cannabis industry. Sears says he hoped to use that legislative commission to settle some unanswered questions of his own.
“Should we do something like Washington State? Should we do something like Alaska? You know, various other models. That’s what I was hoping we’d look at: ‘How to,’ rather than, ‘If,’” Sears says.
But Scott says his commission will more likely focus on how to detect marijuana impairment in drivers, and establish regional impairment standards, rather than the merits of a regulated cannabis industry in Vermont.
“I just think it’s imperative that we stay ahead of the curve as best we can and make sure that we prepare ourselves,” Scott says.
Earlier this year, Scott vetoed legislation that would have legalized possession of up to an ounce of cannabis and allowed residents to grow a small number of plants for personal use. He subsequently negotiated a compromise measure with House and Senate Democrats that would have allowed the proposal to move forward, but House Republicans were able to block a vote in June.
Sears and other key lawmakers say they hope to have that bill to Scott’s desk early next year, and Scott has said he’ll sign it. Scott, however, says he wants to have more stringent highway safety standards in place before he’ll consider state-sanctioned recreational marijuana sales.
Scott says he’ll announce members of the marijuana commission “in the next few days.”