Governor not sold on pot legislation

VERGENNES — At Monday’s legislative breakfast in Vergennes, Gov. Phil Scott and one of his constituents discussed their opposing viewpoints on the possible legalization of small amounts of marijuana.
It appears the 2017 legislative session will wrap up without passage of a bill that would have allowed Vermont to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana and up to two mature plants.
Middlebury attorney Dave Silberman, a staunch supporter of legalization, challenged the governor on his reluctance to support a bill based on the lack of reliable testing for impaired driving under the influence of marijuana. But Silberman pointed to recent testimony by state traffic safety experts that he said suggested “drugged driving is an existing problem that has nothing to do with legalization.”
Silberman said research has shown drugged driving rates haven’t increased in Colorado or Washington since those states legalized recreational marijuana. He urged Scott to support legalization and at the same time train more drugged driving detection experts and intensify public education on the issue.
“You haven’t made those things a priority; you’ve insisted on a non-existent test that your experts say we don’t actually need,” Silberman said. “Why is it that  you’re disagreeing with your own experts on drugged driving?”
Scott said he doesn’t share Silberman’s opinion on pot legalization.
“I’m not saying ‘never’; I’m saying ‘not now,’” Scott said. “We have four states that have legalized so far. Shouldn’t we be learning from them? Shouldn’t we be learning about ways to detect impairment on our highways?”
Scott said he’s working with a coalition of New England governors to, among other things, determine an impairment level that could be offered as a public safety standard.
The state threshold for driving under the influence of alcohol is 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects.
“It’s my belief that if we legalize, there will be more use (of marijuana), and I believe there would be more impairment on our highways,” Scott said. “I think as far as government is concerned, public safety is paramount over everything else.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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