Gov. Phil Scott has signed an executive order that creates a special marijuana advisory commission to focus on legalization issues.
After House Republicans blocked a legalization bill at the end of the legislative session, Scott said that he would create a commission through an executive order.
The order creates a 13-person panel that will study highway safety concerns, education and prevention issues, and how the state could tax and regulate the sale of pot.
Rebecca Kelley, the governor's communication director, says Scott is not philosophically opposed to legalizing marijuana but wants to learn from the experience of other states, particularly in the area of highway safety.
"That we're looking at research data, and that we're laying a framework," Kelley explains, "to alleviate any concerns or any issues that other states have faced so that we can address them more proactively before we move forward on legalization."
The commission will have bipartisan leadership. Scott has named former Vermont Democratic Party chairman Jake Perkinson and former Republican House member Tom Little to serve as co-chairmen of the panel.
Little was the chairman of the House Judiciary committee in 2000 when lawmakers passed the Civil Unions law. He says the issue of driver impairment will be a top priority.
"There are considerable challenges with highway safety enforcement along the lines that we do with other drugs and with alcohol for marijuana,” Little explained.
Some states that have legalized marijuana have a full regulatory system for the sale and taxation of pot, while others have simply legalized the possession of an ounce or two with no state oversight. Little says the commission will study the pros and cons of each approach.
Because the sale and possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law, states that regulate and tax marijuana often have to rely on a cash based system.
Little says this is another issue for the commission to look at.
"There's a use of alternative currencies, Bitcoin and other things like that,” says Little, “so that it isn't necessarily a cash basis entirely."
The commission is scheduled to issue its final report in December 2018. It's a timetable that will allow the 2019 Legislature to debate a legalization bill.