Vermont governor reluctantly signs marijuana legalization bill

"Some people don't feel that this is a momentous occasion."

Marijuana dries in a special room at the Green Pearl Organics dispensary on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in California, January 1, 2018. (Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Marijuana dries in a special room at the Green Pearl Organics dispensary on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in California, January 1, 2018. (Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) quietly approved a marijuana legalization bill on Monday, opting to sign the bill without press cameras in the room.

Scott reiterated that he would veto any effort to create the kind of tax-and-regulate recreational marijuana economy that states like Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Colorado have pioneered. He expressed “mixed emotions” about signing the law, which allows Vermonters to grow pot at home and possess up to an ounce of the narcotic.

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Other politicians might have handled the occasion differently. Marijuana legalization is now among the most popular and bipartisan policies in the country. Traditionally, an elected official who is inking something people really like wants to make sure everyone sees them do it. But Scott is only hitching his political wagon to the cannabis star reluctantly.

“Scott said previously that he’s declining to hold a bill signing ceremony because ‘some people don’t feel that this is a momentous occasion,'” the Associated Press reports.

Give him points for being consistent. Legislators in Vermont spent much of last year hammering out compromises on a legalization package, only to have Scott veto the bill in May. That time he did go in front of the cameras, listing off specific objections at his weekly press conference and fielding multiple questions about his decision to block the reforms.

The concerns he expressed then — chiefly tied to fears that legal pot would find its way into the hands of minors, but also to the idea that legalizing would make the state’s roads more dangerous — have since been addressed, according to the AP. Though the question of road safety is a sticky one — in part because the various companies vying to market the pot equivalent of a breathlyzer test for intoxication behind the wheel are using junk science.

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Vermont will forgo many millions of dollars in new tax revenue that could be generated by full, true legalization of the drug. Intense consumer demand coupled with carefully designed tax rules has yielded huge sums of public money for schools, law enforcement, and other services elsewhere. Analysts who work with would-be cannabusiness investors predict that the market for legal marijuana — which already measures in the billions of dollars annually — will soon be worth well over $20 billion.