Vermont becomes ninth state to legalize marijuana


Jan 22 (Reuters) - Vermont became the ninth U.S. state and third in the Northeast to legalize recreational marijuana use on Monday when Republican Governor Phil Scott signed a bill passed by the legislature earlier this month.

The law legalizes possession of up to 1 ounce of the drug, two mature plants and up to four immature plants by people 21 and older beginning on July 1. It does not legalize trade in the drug.

"Today, with mixed emotions, I have signed H. 511," Scott said in a statement, referring to the measure by its legislative number.

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He noted that he had vetoed an earlier version of the bill that would have opened up sales of the drug, saying that a state commission would have time for further study before allowing a retail trade in recreational pot.

Neighboring Massachusetts, nearby Maine and six other states have legalized marijuana use as a result of voter initiatives.

New Hampshire's House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a similar bill to legalize recreational marijuana use. That state's governor, Republican Chris Sununu, has said he opposes legalization.

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Legal recreational marijuana sold in California
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Legal recreational marijuana sold in California
Customers buy recreational marijuana at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Marijuana is displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A customer browses marijuana products for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Customers queue for recreational marijuana outside the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A customer browses screens displaying recreational marijuana products for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A woman holds marijuana for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Marijuana edibles are displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Eron Silverstein, 51, (R) shops for marijuana at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Marijuana products are displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Customers purchase marijuana at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensary dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
People wait in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A customer waits at the counter to purchase marijuana as others wait in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Andrew DeAngelo (L) and his brother Steve DeAngelo (R), co-founders of Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, celebrate after a ceremonial ribbon cutting on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
An employee hugs a customer as others wait in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
An employee finds marijuana for a customer at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Employees wait behind the counter at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, as a large clock counts down to the store's official opening at 6am on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S. January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Different strains of marijuana are seen for sale at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A couple poses behind a cardboard Instagram frame while waiting in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Employees prepare to open at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Steve DeAngelo (C) makes the first legal recreational marijuana sale to Henry Wykowski at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S. January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Michael Sherman purchases marijuana at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A customer peers at different marijuana strains in a glass case at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Marijuana is seen for sale at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
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Vermont is the first state to take this step by an act of the legislature, rather than as a ballot initiative. While it is one of the most politically liberal states, it is also one of 23 in the nation that do not allow ballot initiatives.

"This is a great step forward for the state and the whole region," Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project said in a statement. "Responsible adults will soon have the freedom to enjoy a safer option legally, and law enforcement will be free to concentrate on serious crimes with actual victims."

Possession of small amounts of the drug had already been a civil, rather than criminal, violation in Vermont.

"I personally believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children," Scott said. (Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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