22 Issue Brief

Governor’s Decision on S.22
An act relating to eliminating penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana by adults 21
years of age and older
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

• The Legislature passed S.22 on May 10th and since then the Governor has received a great deal
of input on this issue and carefully weighed the advantages and disadvantages of this proposal;
what it does and does not do; the realities of marijuana consumption in Vermont and across
the nation; and the effectiveness of the current prohibition.

• After careful consideration, the Governor has decided to veto S.22 and will be providing the
Legislature with recommended changes that, if implemented, would move this discussion

We must get this right & key questions must be answered
• Governor Scott is not philosophically opposed to this discussion and recognizes there is a clear
societal shift in this direction.

• The Governor looks at the issue of adult consumption, generally, through a libertarian lens and
believes that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, if it
doesn’t negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children.

• The Governor also has compassion for those for whom marijuana alleviates the symptoms of
debilitating diseases. He’s previously supported – and continues to support – medical
marijuana laws and decriminalization.

• However, Governor Scott believes it is crucial that key questions and concerns involving public
safety and health are addressed before moving forward with a regulated commercial system.

• The Governor feels we must get this right, let science inform the policy we make around this
issue, and learn from the experience of other states to address key the health, safety and
prevention and education questions.

Specifically, the Governor believes we should know how we will address the following, before moving
forward with a regulated commercial system:
• How public safety officials will detect and measure impairment on our roadways;
• How the State will fund and implement additional enforcement, administrative functions, safety
measures and substance abuse prevention education;
• How the regulatory and public health and safety systems will keep our children safe and
severely penalize those who do not; and
• How the state will measure legalization impacts on the mental health and substance abuse
issues our communities are already facing.

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S.22 Issue Brief

• S.22 does not yet adequately address these questions outlined above and must take a much
more thorough look at what public health, safety and education policies are needed before
Vermont pursues a comprehensive regulatory system for an adult-use marijuana market.

• First, in its attempt to equate marijuana with alcohol, this bill appears to weaken penalties for
the dispensing and sale of marijuana to minors. Weakening these protections and penalties
should be totally unacceptable to even the most ardent legalization advocates.

• Second, the Governor is seeking changes to more aggressively penalize consumption while
driving and usage in the presence of minors.

o Governor Scott believes we must consider how we will further protect children if we bring it
into the mainstream – whether it’s access to the substance or the impact of contact with
second-hand smoke.

o According to the best science available, and our own Department of Health, even
secondhand marijuana smoke can negatively impact the brain development of children,
teenagers, and young adults.

o Vermont’s laws must discourage and penalize individuals for usage in the presence of
minors. For example, according to this bill, if an adult is smoking with a child in the car there
is only a small fine equal to the penalty for an adult having an open container of alcohol.
This is not a sufficient penalty for something that, in the Governor’s view, rises to the level
of child endangerment.

• Third, the Marijuana Regulatory Commission proposed in the bill must have broader
membership, including representatives from the Department of Public Safety, the Department
of Health, the Department of Taxes, and the substance abuse prevention and treatment

o The Commission must determine an impairment threshold for operating a motor vehicle; an
impairment testing mechanism; an education and prevention strategy to address use by
minors; and a plan for continued monitoring and reporting on impacts to public health.

o The Commission must also produce a detailed estimate of the General Fund revenue
required for the adequate regulation, enforcement, administration, and education and
prevention recommendations it shall make.

• If the Legislature agrees to make the changes the Governor is seeking, we can move this
discussion forward in a way that ensures that the public health and safety of our communities
and our children continues to come first.


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