Retail pot bill to become law without Scott’s signature

October 8, 2020 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A bill that would set up a system to legalize sales of recreational marijuana in Vermont will become law without Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s signature, meaning that retail sales of marijuana could start in two years.

Scott said in a letter to the secretary of the Senate on Wednesday night that the Legislature has made substantial progress in addressing three of his key priorities but more work needs to be done to address the health and safety of kids and highway safety.

“This new bill requires cities and towns to authorize these businesses before retail establishments may open,” he wrote, adding that it ensures local zoning applies to cannabis cultivation and production. It sets up a 14% excise tax on cannabis products, of which 30% —— up to $10 million per year — would go to education and prevention efforts, Scott said. The sales and use tax on cannabis would fund a grant program to expand afterschool and summer learning programs, he added.

“The Legislature needs to strengthen education and prevention – including banning marketing that appeals in any way to our kids – otherwise they are failing to learn the lessons of the public health epidemic caused by tobacco and alcohol,” Scott said.

Recreational marijuana is also legal in Massachusetts and Maine.

Massachusetts is currently the only East Coast state with retail sales of recreational marijuana, but Maine expects to open its first such establishments on Friday.

The legislation includes a provision for a roadside saliva test, obtained with a warrant. Scott had made roadside testing one of his conditions for supporting the legislation.

It establishes a cannabis control board with an executive director to govern the tax and regulate market. The legislation also prioritizes licenses for women and members of marginalized communities and requires that prior marijuana-related offenses not be considered an impediment to people seeking a cannabis business license.

Scott noted that section but also encouraged the Legislature to revisit the “concerns from communities historically most negatively affected by cannabis enforcement that the bill did not do enough to ensure more equity in this new market.”