Scott lets cannabis, community education and ethics bills become law

Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott today allowed three bills to become law without his signature: H.612, An act relating to miscellaneous cannabis amendments; H.630, An act relating to improving access to high-quality education through community collaborations; and H.875, An act relating to the State Ethics Commission and the State Code of Ethics. In the cannabis bill, he noted that the bill closes some loopholes, but is concerned about higher potency medical cannabis getting into the hands of people who are not medically qualified to receive it. Scott has been concerned with the legalization of cannabis for, among other reasons, the potential for kids getting a hold of such products and for creating more opportunities for people to drive impaired.

On June 10, Governor Scott signed bills of the following titles:

  • H.626, An act relating to animal welfare
  • H.780, An act relating to judicial nominations and appointments
  • H.847, An act relating to peer support provider and peer recovery support specialist certification

 

On June 10, Governor Scott allowed H.612, An act relating to miscellaneous cannabis amendments, to become law without his signature and sent a letter to the General Assembly.

Dear Ms. Wrask:

Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, H.612, An act relating to miscellaneous cannabis amendments, will become law without my signature. When cannabis became legal in Vermont, I emphasized safeguards around use, especially for our kids. This bill takes some steps forward, and some steps back, in this area.

On the positive side, it closes a loophole related to hemp infused products with THC.  It ensures individuals with significant, documented medical needs continue to have access to medical cannabis. It makes progress toward safeguards for those under 21 seeking access to more potent medical products. And it’s responsive to municipal concerns regarding setbacks for outdoor cannabis cultivators.

I’m concerned, however, about warnings from healthcare providers that the availability of high potency medical cannabis products in more retail stores will increase use among those who do not have a valid medical prescription. I believe the Legislature should add additional guardrails and penalties to ensure medical cannabis cards are legitimately obtained and not illegally diverted. 

I’m also concerned that continued reductions in licensing fees will inevitably mean revenue dedicated to prevention will have to be used to fund Cannabis Control Board operations, instead of the prevention efforts we must continue to prioritize. 

It's important to note, the regulation of Vermont’s cannabis market remains vulnerable to powerful interests that favor profits over the health and wellbeing of children. Vermont must remain true to the approach the Legislature has crafted by continuing to prioritize prevention and the health of our communities over the profits of growers and retailers.

On balance, however, I believe the benefits of this bill still outweigh the risks and that we have an opportunity to further protect against harmful outcomes when the Legislature returns in January.

Sincerely,

/s/

Philip B. Scott

Governor

On June 10, Governor Scott allowed H.630, An act relating to improving access to high-quality education through community collaborations, to become law without his signature and sent a letter to the General Assembly.

Dear Ms. Wrask:

Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, H.630, An act relating to improving access to high-quality education through community collaboration, will become law without my signature.

As Vermonters know all too well, taxpayers – and our entire economy – are straining under historic inflation, unsustainable growth in government spending, and the possibility of a double-digit tax rate increase if the Legislature overrides my veto of H.887. While H.630 is well intentioned, I’m concerned this bill creates another level of bureaucracy, when we need to create a more efficient and effective system.

We may disagree in some areas of education reform, but there is universal agreement in the need for a focused review of Vermont’s education system to reduce costs, increase equity, and improve student outcomes. Which leads me to believe H.630 could be putting the cart before the horse.

Having said that, this bill will become law without my signature because it gives communities the choice to opt into, or stay out of, a cooperative, and they have until July 1, 2026 to make that determination. This timeline provides an opportunity to prevent H.630 from becoming another idea from Montpelier that diverts education funding and management time away from the quality of our classrooms.

Sincerely,

/s/

Philip B. Scott

Governor

On June 10, Governor Scott allowed H.875, An act relating to the State Ethics Commission and the State Code of Ethics, to become law without his signature and sent a letter to the General Assembly.

Dear Ms. Wrask:

Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, H.875, An act relating to the State Ethics Commission and the State Code of Ethics will become law without my signature.

A uniform statewide code of ethics that applies to all those performing public service in state government – across all three branches – and at the local level builds faith and trust in the institutions of our democracy. At a time when distrust in government is rising, and fear is used by politicians to divide us, the State has undertaken this important effort, as have many municipalities. I have been pleased to sign several previous ethics bills into law.

However, with the addition of municipal compliance, the Legislature did not fund reporting, investigations or the salary of a full-time Executive Director. These amount to another unfunded mandate, which could add to the municipal tax burden, and will add to the workload of municipal officials already working full tilt to take full advantage of the unprecedented investments in infrastructure my Administration is implementing.  

The bill also has odd inconsistencies, in that it exempts school board members and some other local officials from having to meet the new requirements. Finally, I was troubled by changes to the composition of the Ethics Commission, to include members appointed by legislators, rather than by a neutral, non-partisan process. 

Everyone seems to agree ethics policies across the whole of government are important, and for that reason, this bill will become law despite my concerns, and my hope is the Legislature will devote time next session to fix the issues VLCT has raised.  

Sincerely,

/s/

Philip B. Scott

Governor 

To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2024 legislative session, click here.

Governor Scott recently discussed his decision-making approach to the bills passed by the Legislature, highlighting the challenge of balancing benefits, costs and risks, and concerns about the realities of new costs and short timelines for numerous new initiatives coming out of the Legislature. In part, Governor Scott said, “As I’ve always done, I will carefully weigh the good against the bad to make a decision based on whether the benefits outweigh the negative impacts for our entire state. These decisions aren’t easy and they’re not always popular here in Montpelier. But I’ll take that heat when I believe I’m making the right choice for the everyday Vermonter.” Read his full statement here.

Source: 6.10.2024. Governor. 109 State Street | The Pavilion | Montpelier, VT 05609-0101 | www.vermont.gov

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