Gov. Phil Scott
On January 22, 2018, Gov. Phil Scott became the first governor in the nation to sign a bill making marijuana legal for adults’ use. However, he previously vetoed a similar bill in spring 2017 and identified changes that would have to be made before he would be willing to sign a subsequent bill. In addition, Gov. Scott’s signing statement indicates that he did so “with mixed emotions,” and he made it clear that he has not yet been convinced to support a regulated and taxed market:
“I look forward to the Marijuana Advisory Commission addressing the need to develop comprehensive education, prevention and highway safety strategies. To be very direct: There must be comprehensive and convincing plans completed in these areas before I will begin to consider the wisdom of implementing a commercial “tax and regulate” system for an adult marijuana market. It is important for the General Assembly to know that – until we have a workable plan to address each of these concerns – I will veto any additional effort along these lines, which manages to reach my desk.”
The Marijuana Advisory Commission, which was created pursuant to an executive order signed by Gov. Scott in September 2017, is scheduled to issue its report to the legislature in December 2018.
Gov. Scott’s lone challenger in the Republican primary, Keith Stern, did not respond to an email request for comment.
At a public forum in July, both candidates reportedly “expressed skepticism of a taxed and regulated system.”
According to a report in The Bennington Banner, all four Democratic candidates for governor spoke at a public forum in late June and said that they “favored a system of marijuana legalization with regulation and taxing provisions.”
James Ehlers reportedly said that the legalization law passed in 2018 “creates an untenable situation” and added that taxing and regulating marijuana is "safer and makes more fiscal sense.”
Christine Hallquist reportedly said, “We need to move to tax and regulate as soon as possible.”
Brenda Siegel reportedly noted that, “the conservative estimate” of potential revenue from a regulated system would be $25 million per year.
State Sen. John Rodgers, running as a write-in candidate, has consistently voted for bills to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. He joined the other candidates at a public form on August 2 and outlined his vision for regulated cannabis markets in Vermont.
Ehlers, Hallquist, Siegel, and Ethan Sonneborn responded “yes” in email responses to this survey question: “Do you support regulating and taxing the production and sale of cannabis in Vermont for use by adults 21 and older?"
Hallquist and Siegel sent us detailed comments via email:
Hallquist: "I am strongly in favor of moving to Tax and Regulate. For me, any tax income would be an added bonus. To have a product that one can possess and consume legally, but which you have no way of knowing the safety or origin of, is neither just nor reasonable. Vermonters deserve to know that their cannabis is safe and that they are inadvertently supporting criminal organizations. We can develop a thriving locally produced sector around cannabis products and to ignore this opportunity is a major failure of the current administration. I believe that prohibition is a failed policy that unnecessarily increases our prison population. I would work with States Attorneys on expungement on peoples' criminal records related to marijuana. My administration will work towards a just marijuana policy that ends prohibition."
Siegel: “In Vermont we must work on a tax and regulate system for Cannabis, which is why I have made it a core piece of my platform. While I applaud the legislature for taking the first steps to legalize possession and home grow, there is still a lot of work to be done. According to the Rand Study the conservative estimate of tax revenue from sale of cannabis alone is 25 million dollars (the range is 25 -75 million). We cannot continue to leave this money sitting on the table. In my platform I have earmarked 15 million of the first 25 to implement a comprehensive plan to heal the Opioid Epidemic. However, this is not the only reason to move to a tax and regulate system. We could be growing a craft industry instead of growing the underground market and this could help our small farmers who are currently struggling to stay afloat. The boon to our economy through tourism, craft industry and tax revenue cannot be ignored. Also, to have a system in which people can possess Cannabis, but can't purchase it, does not go far enough to address criminal justice reform around marijuana policy. In order to truly stop the systemic policing and incarcerating of people of color and other minority groups, we need to do away with policies that have a history of needlessly targeting these groups. The bottom line is that there is no good reason not to tax and regulate Cannabis and the benefits of a tax and regulate system are extraordinary. I would add that Vermont has been kicking this can down the road for long enough and we need to move quickly to a stronger system if we are to ensure that we will reap the benefits of that system. My administration will prioritize this policy as it is what is needed to move us forward."