Gov. Scott vetoes the marijuana bill - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Gov. Scott vetoes the marijuana bill

Gov. Phil Scott Gov. Phil Scott

It's a no on legal weed. Gov. Phil Scott says he is vetoing a bill that would have legalized recreational marijuana in Vermont starting next summer.

Wednesday, citing concerns about public safety and children's safety, the governor outlined the three reasons why he made that decision. First, he said the bill does not have stiff enough penalties for selling marijuana to minors. He wants lawmakers to rewrite those sections. Second, the governor says the bill needs more aggressive penalties for using marijuana while driving and around children. And third, he said the marijuana regulatory commission needs more time to study the issue and the potential mental health and drug use prevention implications.

"From my vantage point, S.22 does not yet adequately address those questions," said Scott, R-Vermont. "Therefore, I'm returning this bill to the Legislature. I am however offering a path forward."

Scott's veto is a blow for lawmakers who wanted legal weed to pass this session. But the potential for a pot bill has not completely burned out yet.

"We can all work together on this issue in a thoughtful and responsible way," Scott said.

The governor suggested he's willing to sign off on a bill to legalize possession and homegrows for those 21 and older if his concerns are addressed.

"It's really about making sure we protect the kids," he said.

"I was frankly a little surprised that he left the door open to finding a remedy," said Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison County.

We caught up with Bray as he entered the Statehouse Wednesday afternoon. He and most of his peers already planned on returning for a veto session in late June to address the governor's concern over teacher health care. An agreement on that or pot will rely heavily on legwork ahead of time.

"In essence, you'd want to work out the details in a compromise before you ever walk into the building to begin with," Bray aid.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson blasted the governor in a statement for not bringing his concerns forward earlier. She did not say whether she'll direct her members to tackle the governor's issues.

Senate President Tim Ashe tells us there are easy fixes for some of Scott's concerns, but he adds that it's not clear yet whether his colleagues will have the time or desire to take it back up this year.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders largely praised the veto.

But even if lawmakers make the fixes the governor wants, they still might not change the votes of Republican lawmakers who opposed it this time.

"I'm not twisting arms one way or the other on that one," Scott said.

And without their support-- or at least more of it-- in the House, there's no guarantee lawmakers will have the time they need to pass a pot compromise.

The lawmakers' plan would not have legalized possession until July 2018. So, they could easily hold off on a new plan until next January without affecting that timeline. That would likely delay efforts to get to a Colorado-style taxed and regulated framework, though.

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