The governor of Vermont on Tuesday signaled that he might veto a bill to legalize marijuana sales in the state, citing concerns about whether the legislation that has been sent to his desk adequately addresses racial equity.
Gov. Phil Scott (R) had previously centered his criticism of the policy change on issues such as impaired driving, taxes and local control. Some advocates suspect that his newly expressed worries about racial justice amount to a cop-out to justify rejecting the reform bill after legislators revised it to largely account for the other issues he’d raised.
The comments came during a gubernatorial debate between Scott and Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (D), a vocal advocate for cannabis reform.
“In terms of the pot bill, I haven’t made up my mind about that. I have received a lot of groups—racial equity groups—that are asking me to veto it,” Scott said. “I was leaning towards letting it go, but I’m really questioning that at this point. I want to hear and listen from them.”
He also criticized the lieutenant governor, saying that as the presiding officer of the Senate, he should’ve been able to hear from these groups to get their input on the bill. Zuckerman said that the logistical challenges of legislating remotely via video conferences amid the coronavirus pandemic created difficulties in ensuring more voices could be represented the process. But he argued that the marijuana commercialization bill, S. 54, does in fact promote social equity.
“There are many provisions in the bill that do address support for minority- and women-owned businesses. And there’s definitely more work to do,” Zuckerman said at the debate, which was hosted by VTDigger. “You know as well as I, you often don’t get everything in your efforts, and there’s more work in this.” He added