Gov. Scott: Do the right thing, sign the marijuana legalization bill

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Editor's note: This editorial was updated on Friday, May 12, at 2:43 p.m. to clarrify how legislator's voted. House Rep. Tim Corcoran, D-Bennington, voted no on May 2 to H. 170, but on May 10 votes yes to the Senate's amendment on S. 22.

It took long enough, but on Wednesday the Legislature voted to approve a bill that would legalize marijuana use for adults, allow them to grow a few plants in their own houses, and create a commission to study a regulated, taxable market.

The House had narrowly passed a bill this year that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana for those 21 and over and lets them grow a few plants in their homes.

It doesn't allow marijuana to be sold or possessed in large quantities.

The bill might have gone to the House floor much sooner, but was moved to another committee because House leadership felt it didn't have enough votes to pass. Many thought the bill dead or at least dormant until it was brought out, passing 79 to 66.

According to the Legislature's website, (http://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/roll-call/2018/87) here's how our local House delegation voted on the bill H.170 on May 2:

Voted yea

Bill Botzow, D-Pownal.

Rachael Fields, D-Bennington

Alice Miller, D-Shaftsbury

Kiah Morris, D-Bennington

Linda Joy Sullivan, D-Dorset

Voted nay

Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington.

Tim Corcoran, D-Bennington.

Brian Keefe, R-Manchester.

Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington.

The House vote came so late in the session that it seemed likely the bill would go no further this year.

Then, late last week, Senator Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, introduced an amendment to another bill that would act as a compromise between the House bill and the Senate's own version.

VT Digger reports that the House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday 8 to 3 to concur with the Senate bill.

A roll call vote on the amendment was taken, in which Corcoran changes his "nay" vote to "yea." He was the only House member from Bennington County to change his vote.

This is the first time a state legislature has sent a marijuana legalization bill to its governor.

The others, eight states and Washington D.C., all legalized marijuana through ballot measures.

The law would go into effect in July of next year, provided Governor Phil Scott doesn't veto it, which he just might.

Scott has gone on record saying that while he's not opposed to marijuana, he's not signing any legalization bill unless there's a reliable roadside test for impairment like there is for alcohol.

Since there is no such test, the final hurdle for the pot bill looks more like a flaming barbed wire hoop.

That being said, we didn't think the House would come to its senses at all this year.

Last session, after it killed the Senate's fairly reasonable tax and regulate bill, we were surprised to see the House even mulling over such a simple decriminalization measure.

Likewise, we were surprised to see the House then pass it, albeit reluctantly. So you can well imagine our shock at the latest development.

Perhaps the governor will surprise us as well.


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