Six-month countdown to implementing Vt. pot law begins

Published: Jan. 22, 2018 at 3:50 PM EST
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Now that Vermont's pot legalization law is signed, the work begins on how to implement it, and despite the Governor's signature, the fight isn't over.

History made, but the moment won't be etched in memory. The first-term Republican signed marijuana legalization into law in private, with just a handful of staff present and no pictures taken.

But now plenty of people are mobilizing, and some are looking to capitalize. Joseph Cartiello owns Peak Hydroponics in Plainfield. He also holds a medical marijuana card and uses his business to help other cardholders grow at home. Now he expects his business to blossom under recreational weed.

"I do believe I'm gonna see some new smaller customers and people that are just interested in doing smaller setups," Cartiello said. Beside good business, he says he believes the law is good policy. "I'm very excited that it's happening. I think now they'll be able to concentrate on the opiate addictions and I think they'll be able to educate the children instead of it being in the back shadows."

Opponents, meanwhile, aren't giving up. Guy Page of Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont, says the group will try to make the best of a bad situation. He says they'll try to influence any rules lawmakers may approve before the law takes effect this July.

"We're going to be involved in that," Page said. The lobbyist says the group will continue running anti-pot radio ads and prevent any progress toward a regulated retail market. "I think we would like to repeal it, or amend this bill, and we will certainly be fighting the regulated sale bill which we know is coming."

He may get some backing from the governor. Governor Scott told lawmakers he will veto any bill creating a regulated retail market in Vermont. He wants the state to focus on education, prevention, and highway safety strategies. Safety strategies that may include saliva testing. The chairs of the House and Senate Transportation Committees say they'll start working to see if law enforcement should use that technology to crack down on impaired drivers.

And Attorney General TJ Donovan says he'll be looking at ways to help the business community adapt to the new law.

"I was at a meeting last week with some businesses and this was the number one question -- What do we do? What are the new rules? With that uncertainty, I think government has to step up and provide some predictability about what the rules of the games are," Donovan said.

A commission created by Gov. Scott will not deliver its final report until December, so further action this year toward a regulated market is not expected.