Connect with us


Vermont Lawmakers Override Governor’s Veto Of Bill To Create Safe Drug Consumption Site In Burlington



“The reason this is happening is my own lapse, not paying attention as closely as I should have been.”

By Kastalia Medrano, Filter

Vermont has authorized a safe consumption site (SCS) pilot, after a General Assembly vote against overturning Gov. Phil Scott’s (R) veto was itself overturned. On Monday, legislators initially fell one vote short of the supermajority required to authorize SCS without the governor’s approval. Hours after voting to uphold the veto, Sen. Richard Westman (R) changed his vote, and with it the legal status of SCS in Vermont.

The Democrat-controlled legislature reconvened to address items left unfinished in May. On the agenda were a record seven bills that had been vetoed by Scott, but which legislators believed they could potentially vote into law without his approval; doing so requires a two-thirds supermajority. After the House voted to overturn the veto, the Senate unexpectedly put forth 19 of the required 20 votes to do the same.

“It was absolutely a surprise. I thought we had the votes,” Sen. Tanya Vyhovsky (P/D) said in the hours after first vote, before the outcome was ultimately reversed, according to VTDigger. “And probably the most heartbreaking surprise that I’ve ever experienced in this building. I mean, that vote will kill people.”

Then Westman requested that the legislature vote again. His vote to override the veto brought the total to 20.

“The reason this is happening is my own lapse, not paying attention as closely as I should have been,” Westman said after the second vote was finalized, according to VTDigger.

Vermont is now the third state to authorize SCS, following Rhode Island and Minnesota. New York City remains the only jurisdiction to actually open SCS, with two sites operating under local authorization since 2021.

Over the past five years, fatal overdose in Vermont has increased 500 percent. Fentanyl was involved in 95 percent of overdose deaths recorded by the Vermont Department of Health in 2023.

Scott vetoed H.72, the proposal to authorize a pilot program with an SCS slated for Burlington, on May 30. The bill as introduced would have included funding for two sites, but the second had been cut in the final version that made it to the governor’s desk.

Though seven vetoes were on the June 17 agenda, Scott issued eight this session in total. In April, he chose not to sign legislation that would have banned flavored tobacco products. The legislature did not take this up alongside the other vetos discussed at the session.

“From my perspective, this bill is inconsistent with other laws related to legalized substance use,” Scott wrote in his veto letter. “In 2020, the Legislature legalized the commercial sale of cannabis, including edibles and other flavored products, which are now widely available, despite the known risks to youth and their developing brains. Yet, to my knowledge, I’m not aware of an initiative to ban such products.”

This mischaracterizes the relative risks of both THC edibles and of flavored vapes.

Since taking office in 2016, Scott has issued more vetoes than any Vermont governor to precede him.

This story has been edited to reflect the final outcome of the Assembly vote

This article was originally published by Filter, an online magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights through a harm reduction lens. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter, or sign up for its newsletter.

Marijuana Rescheduling Opponents Slam FDA Process, Saying It Relied On ‘Very Bad Studies’

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Become a patron at Patreon!

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Get our daily newsletter.

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Get our daily newsletter.