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Vermont to legalize recreational marijuana

Vermont to legalize recreational marijuana
© Greg Nash

Vermont will become the 11th state in the nation to allow sales of marijuana for recreational use after Gov. Phil Scott (R) said this week he would not veto a measure passed by the state legislature.

Scott had vetoed an earlier marijuana legalization bill that did not include specific funding directives he had sought.

But in a letter to legislators this week, Scott said he would allow the latest bill to become law without his signature. He said the measure included a sufficient amount of funding to education and prevention campaigns designed to keep children off marijuana, and the implementation of a roadside saliva test aimed at curbing driving under the influence.

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Scott said more work remained. He called for further legislation that would open the legal market to more minority- and women-owned businesses.

Vermont will now begin crafting the regulatory structures that will lead to legal pot sales. The legislation creates a cannabis control board that will establish the rules, along with a significant 14 percent excise tax on all marijuana products.

The first marijuana shops are likely to open by 2022, after the new rules are finalized.

Vermont is the first state where marijuana has been legalized by an act of the legislature. A similar push in New Jersey, backed by Gov. Phil Murphy (D), stalled earlier this year.

Vermont would be the third New England state to legalize recreational pot, after Massachusetts, where recreational stores are already open, and Maine, with stores likely to open soon. Voters in those states, as well as in Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, passed ballot measures legalizing recreational marijuana sales.

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The number of states where recreational marijuana is legal is likely to increase after November’s election. Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota will decide on legal marijuana measures; a recent survey of Arizona voters indicated that their measure, Proposition 207, would pass by a wide margin.

Voters in Mississippi will decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical use next month. Most other states have legal medical marijuana regimes on the books.

Scott, a centrist Republican who voted against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE in this year’s GOP primary, has been negotiating with the legislature over legal marijuana for years. He is unlikely to pay any political price, either for his Republican apostasy or for allowing legal pot to become law — a Vermont Public Radio survey conducted in September found Scott leading his Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, by a 55 percent to 24 percent margin.