Vermont is now the ninth state to legalize marijuana.
Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, on Monday signed a legalization bill, making the state the first to legalize cannabis through its legislature instead of a ballot initiative.
The bill legalizes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and up to two mature and four immature cannabis plants for adults 21 and older. It doesn’t legalize recreational pot sales, as has been done in the eight states (excluding Washington, DC) to legalize marijuana so far. The law takes effect in July.
The law’s passage was somewhat complicated by news in recent weeks that the Trump administration, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, rescinded Obama-era policies that allowed states to move forward with state-level legalization with minimal federal interference, even as pot remained illegal at the federal level. But the news did not appear to deter Vermont lawmakers.
In 2012, Colorado and Washington state became the first to legally allow pot for recreational purposes. Washington, DC, and six other states, including Massachusetts and California, have since legalized marijuana — although DC, like Vermont, does not allow recreational pot sales.
Supporters of legalization argue that it eliminates the harms of marijuana prohibition: the hundreds of thousands of arrests around the US, the racial disparities behind those arrests, and the billions of dollars that flow from the black market for illicit marijuana to drug cartels that then use the money for violent operations around the world. All of this, legalization advocates say, will outweigh any of the potential downsides — such as increased cannabis use — that might come with legalization.
Opponents, meanwhile, claim that legalization will enable a huge marijuana industry that will market the drug irresponsibly. They point to America’s experiences with the alcohol and tobacco industries in particular, which have built their financial empires in large part on some of the heaviest consumers of their products. This could result in far more people using pot, even if it leads to negative health consequences.
Supporters have now scored a big win in Vermont.