On Thursday, Gov. Phil Scott signed an executive order calling for a special advisory commission to study potential issues arising from marijuana legalization. According to Vermont Public Radio, the 13-member panel will be organized into three subcommittees analyzing education and prevention, highway safety concerns, and taxation and the regulation of the sale of marijuana.
The commission will include five members of the Scott administration from key state agencies and departments. The attorney general, Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs will each hold a seat, as well as two members each from the House and the Senate. Laura Subin, director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, is also an anticipated appointee.
The commission will also have bipartisan leadership, in the form of two attorneys with significant public policy experience; Jake Perkinson, a former democratic party chair from Burlington, and Tom Little, a former republican state representative from Shelburne.
Little is paying careful attention to the issue of highway safety. “There are considerable challenges with highway safety enforcement along the lines that we do with other drugs and with alcohol for marijuana,” said Little.
He also pointed to another issue for the commission to address; that the state would have to create a cash or alternative currency-based system for marijuana regulation and taxation, as sale and possession are currently illegal under federal law.
Upon announcing the commission, Scott reiterated that he was not philosophically opposed to marijuana legalization. “We cannot ignore the fact that states around us have already legalized. This commission is part of a more thoughtful, deliberative process to deal with an issue that impacts all of us. He went on to add, “It’s critical that we get this right.”
The commission is anticipated to hold its first meeting by October 1, 2017, with an initial report prepared by mid-January, and a final report at the end of December 2018. The commission’s timetable establishes a 2019 timetable for a legalization debate.