- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2017

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has signed an executive order creating a commission tasked with exploring the state’s options for legalizing marijuana months after vetoing a bill aiming to do the same.

The 13-member commission unveiled Thursday by Mr. Scott, a first-term Republican, will meet in the coming months “in order to establish a common baseline understanding of the most credible data regarding health endpoints of marijuana use and safety impacts of legalization,” according to a copy of his executive order.

The commission will hold its first meeting on or by Oct. 1 and is expected to give the governor a report early next year containing its recommendations with respect to adding Vermont to the growing list of states with legal weed, his order says.

“We cannot ignore the fact that states around us have already legalized,” Mr. Scott said in a statement. “This Commission is part of a more thoughtful, deliberative process to deal with an issue that impacts all of us.”

Vermont’s Legislature already voted in May to establish a commission devoted to studying marijuana legalization in addition to rolling back penalties for minor possession, but Mr. Scott vetoed their effort shortly after citing health and safety concerns. He later endorsed a compromise bill offered in June, but that proposal died, too, during a special one-day veto session.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Scott declined to say if he’ll still support something along the lines of the compromise bill when lawmakers reconvene next in January, The Burlington Free Press reported.

“It’s too early to say how the commission will impact that legislation,” spokeswoman Rebecca Kelley said. “It’s too early to say one way or the other what he would do at this point on the legislation.”

“The commission was an important part of the legislation, so we’re glad to see it moving forward,” added state Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, a Democrat.

The governor’s executive order outlines a 13-member commission led by Tom Little, a former Republican state representative, and Jake Perkinson, a former Democratic Party chairman. Mr. Scott’s office will hold five seats and the state House and Senate will each be allotted two. The remaining two will be split among the Vermont’s attorney general’s office and its Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs.

Recreational marijuana is legalized to varying degrees in eight states and Washington, D.C., including five states where the plant is legally sold to adults at state-licensed dispensaries. Two of Vermont’s neighbors — Maine and Massachusetts — are slated to begin retail marijuana sales in 2018, and Canada’s government is expected to federally legalize the plant by next summer.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but the Trump administration has largely refrained from interfering in states with legal weed since the president took office in January.

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