WATERBURY, Vt. — Gov. Phil Scott said Thursday he thinks it will be possible to reach an agreement with lawmakers on a proposal to make Vermont the ninth state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana ahead of next week’s two-day session for the Legislature to act on bills the Republican governor has vetoed.
Scott said negotiations between his administration and legislative leaders are continuing and both sides are trying to resolve the differences.
“We are still negotiating,” Scott said during an appearance at Waterbury Center state park. “They understand … what my reservations are in terms of what they’re planning, but I still think it’s workable.”
Last month, Scott vetoed the marijuana legislation, which would allow anyone over 21 to possess or grow small amounts of marijuana while larger amounts would remain illegal. Scott told lawmakers he had no philosophical opposition to legalizing marijuana, but had some related concerns such as safeguards for children and highway safety.
If approved, Vermont would be the first state in the country to legalize legislation by state law rather than through a public referendum.
State Sen. Dick Sears, a Democrat, said Thursday he also remains hopeful lawmakers will be able to reach a deal on marijuana during the veto session, scheduled to begin June 21, but he didn’t know if Republicans in the House would agree to suspend the rules, which would be needed to pass a revised marijuana proposal during the veto session.
“Some of the differences are not that far apart,” said Sears, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
House Minority Leader Don Turner said he and other GOP lawmakers remain opposed to the proposal. He said he didn’t know if the Republican caucus would be willing to suspend the rules.
“Suspending the rules is essentially passing marijuana,” Turner said.
Sears said that even if Republicans in the House refuse to suspend the rules, it would probably still be possible for Vermont to implement a recreational marijuana law on July 1, 2018 — the date in the proposal Scott vetoed last month — if a revised measure could be passed in January when lawmakers return. The governor also would have to create a commission to study implementation of a law, including how to regulate a retail marijuana market.
Turner said it would be OK with him if the same legislation is passed in January if it went through the full legislative process.
Negotiations are expected to continue Friday.