Vermont has become the ninth state to legalize marijuana. Governor Phil Scott signed H.511 with “mixed emotions.” The legislation allows people over the age of 21 to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow as many as six plants. There will be no commercial sales of marijuana.
The governor said in a statement, “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.”
Do not expect Vermont to become like Colorado or California. The state maintains that cannabis is a controlled substance and the sale of it is prohibited. It will remain illegal to consume it in public places. Also in the bill, “Consumption of marijuana by operators and passengers in a motor vehicle is prohibited. Schools, employers, municipalities, and landlords are also empowered to adopt policies and ordinances further restricting the cultivation and use.”
What is unique about the Vermont move is that it was driven by a legislative effort, whereas other states have been led by voter initiatives. The governor vetoed a similar bill S.22 last year. This new law is set to take effect on July 1.
“After more than 15 years of hard work by MPP and our allies in the state, adults in Vermont no longer need to fear being fined or criminalized for low-level marijuana possession and cultivation,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “This is a great step forward for the state and the whole region. 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. We are looking forward to working with lawmakers and state leaders to continue improving marijuana laws in the Green Mountain State.”
Smart Approaches to Marijuana or SAM said in a statement, “Unlike some reports, this bill will not legalize marijuana sales. While SAM always opposes any legalization measure that will inevitably increase use rate among our youth and make our roads more dangerous, we recognize that since H.511 stops short of legalizing sales, it can be seen as a compromise.”
Vermont’s Cannabis History
Vermont banned marijuana in 1915. The state legalized medical marijuana in 2004, passing without the governor’s signature. It was expanded in 2007, also without a signature form the governor. New legislation in 2015 failed to pass as did S.22 in 2017.
A study in 2014 estimated that legalized adult-use marijuana would bring up to $75 million in tax revenue for the state. Proponents of recreational marijuana said it would revisit the idea following a new study being conducted that would be released in 2019.