This afternoon, Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) became the first governor in the country to sign recreational marijuana legalization into law. Vermont is now the first state to pass recreational marijuana legalization via the legislative process, and the ninth state overall to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Each of the previous eight states passed legalization efforts via voter-approved ballot measures. The Vermont Legislature passed a recreational marijuana legalization bill last year as well, but Governor Scott vetoed the legislation at the time. This yaer, after lawmakers quickly passed legalization legislation, Scott, with “mixed emotions,” signed the measure into law.
The new law (VT HB 511), which goes into effect in July, will allow residents 21 years or older to grow up to two mature cannabis plants and possess one ounce of marijuana, but it stops short of legalizing the sale of marijuana. Like Washington, D.C.'s legalization system, Vermont will not have a legal marketplace for marijuana sales like the eight previous reactional legalization states (and therefore no tax revenues from such sales will head towards state coffers).
In 2016, voters in California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts all approved the legalization of recreational marijuana via ballot measures. Legalization proponents hope to grow the list of recreational legalization states this November. There are already 25 potential marijuana-related ballot measures aiming for the 2018 ballot. Meanwhile, 29 states have legalized marijuana for medical use.
Adding a new wrinkle to the marijuana legalization debate is U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision this month to reverse an Obama-era memo that had previously directed federal law enforcement official to not prioritize non-violent marijuana prosecutions, which remain illegal under federal law.