Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed an Executive Order Thursday creating a Marijuana Advisory Commission. The members are tasked with crafting recommendations to address the health, public safety and regulatory issues surrounding the possible legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.
The commission will be comprised of three subcommittees that will evaluate the research on marijuana use and the experience of states that have already legalized recreational use. Shelburne lawyer and former Republican House Member Tom Little is a co-chair. “The governor’s executive order establishes three subcommittees that are structured to focus on the three public policy areas: highway safety, public health particularly for our young people, and taxation and regulation. And the subcommittees will be the work horses of the study commission. The hope is that this is a non-partisan objective approach that will go through a public process that’s not within the Statehouse itself and maybe a different approach perhaps can help achieve consensus or move the ball down the field in terms of consensus better than has been achieved so far.”
Former Vermont Democratic Party chair Jake Perkinson is the other commission co-chair. He has advised medical cannibis companies and feels that gives him a familiarity that will help their work. “It’s a complex matter. One of the challenges in this industry is that it’s a constantly evolving one and information that might have been valid two years ago isn’t necessarily valid today or that there is important changes that have come about as a result of developments in the industry or in the legal landscape. So it is very complex. There are a lot of issues to address. I think there’s a lot of ground that has already been covered. But I think it is important to take a snapshot where we are in time rather than trying to rely on things that have already been done. And that’s kind of the philosophy that I think the governor is trying to instill in this committee which is to look at what everybody else has done to date, see what the best ideas are and put that into recommendations for Vermont.”
Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Director Laura Subin will serve on the tax and regulation subcommittee. “We are hopeful that this will add to the conversation but not create further delays to legalization. We had a piece of legislation that had the support of the governor’s office, the House and the Senate and I hope that that comes back in January and quickly gets done. And so that the discussion around a fully regulated market doesn’t interfere with the legalization piece of the conversation.”
While the commission includes state-level Public Safety representatives, Colchester Police Chief Jennifer Morrison, the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police President, says there is not enough representation from local law enforcement. “On the one hand I appreciate that the Governor appears to be taking a very thoughtful approach to the path forward toward legalization should legalization happen. That it certainly sounds like there’s a sincere effort to vet many of the most important issues that would impact Vermonters. You know we’re optimistic that the path forward does include a deliberative process and hopefully some fact-finding. On the other side of that equation we were gravely disappointed to find out that the voice of local law enforcement, and that includes county sheriffs, was not asked to be at the table actually in any of the commission nor in any of the subcommittees that the executive order outlined.”
The commission must hold its first meeting by the end of September. A report with recommendations must be presented to the governor by January 15th.