WATERBURY, Vt. — A Vermont commission formed to study the ramifications of legalizing recreational marijuana held its first meeting Thursday by laying out challenges the state would face and making clear the goal is to learn from other states where recreational pot is already legal.
Earlier this year Vermont became the first state to see its legislature approve recreational marijuana, but Republican Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the legislation in May. Scott said he wasn’t philosophically opposed to legalized marijuana, but wanted answers to questions a commission could address.
“To my mind there is no general agreement on the impact of the public safety impacts, the role of marijuana in highway accidents and fatalities, the impact on the developing brain and at what age that is most impactful so developing a baseline of data is very important,” Jaye Pershing Johnson, legal counsel to the governor, told the Marijuana Advisory Commission Thursday.
She said she recently spoke with her counterpart in Colorado, one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana.
“They are basically flying the plane while they are building it,” she said. “I think we have the opportunity, this commission has the opportunity, to build the plane so that we can fly it and not have to deal with the unanticipated consequences that many of the other states are experiencing.”
The commission will not debate whether or not the state should legalize marijuana, but will determine the practical challenges associated with it, including highway safety, any public health concerns and the best way to tax and regulate marijuana, officials said. Three subcommittees will tackle the issues.
“This is a big challenge and one thing that is consistent is that everything changes,” said Jake Perkinson, the commission co-chair and former chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party.
The Vermont Legislature is expected to reconsider legalizing marijuana when lawmakers return in January. It’s unclear how quickly any bill would advance.
By the middle of January, the commission must present a report to the governor with recommendations on the appropriate way to test people for marijuana impairment, the possible funding and training for drug recognition experts, the need for youth prevention programs and if the state has enough substance abuse facilities.
By December 2018, the commission is to present proposals to the governor for a system to regulate an adult revenue market, including a “revenue system.”
Seven states and the District of Colombia have approved the recreational use of marijuana.