Vermont just became the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana, and it’s the first in U.S. history to accomplish an ever bigger feat: making pot legal through its legislature rather than ballot initiative.
Still, Republican Gov. Phil Scott said in a statement he signed the bill Monday with “mixed emotions.”
“I personally believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children,” Scott said in the statement.
The law Scott signed, which cleared Vermont’s Legislature on Jan. 10, is just as reserved as he is about recreational marijuana. Adults 21 and older can possess up to an ounce of pot and grow two mature plants at home, but commercial sales aren’t allowed, so Vermont won’t see the kind of sweeping retail weed markets that are operating in states like Colorado and Nevada.
Scott said he’s a long way from putting something like that into place until there are concrete plans about marijuana education, prevention, and highway safety and would veto anything that came to him before then. In September he set up an advisory commision to study these issues.
Marijuana advocates like Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, cheered the new bill, which Scott previously vetoed in May, asking for stricter penalties for people who broke the law and strengthened provisions to keep weed away from children.
“This is a great step forward for the state and the whole region,” Simon said in a statement. “Responsible adults will soon have the freedom to enjoy a safer option legally, and law enforcement will be free to concentrate on serious crimes with actual victims.”
Nine states—Vermont, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Massachusetts, Maine—and the District of Columbia have now legalized recreational marijuana, setting up a clash with Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, which announced in early January it was giving federal prosecutors more latitude to go after states and businesses in the legal weed trade, a rollback of Obama-era policies.