Vermont: History Made with Marijuana Legalization

Tara Tedrow

Vermont is clearly unfazed by the Sessions Memo. Today, their state legislature enacted a law, signed by the governor, that legalizes possession and home cultivation of marijuana for adults aged 21+. This is not Vermont 's first foray into marijuana- in 2004, the state legalized medical marijuana, and is currently among a majority of states (along with D.C. and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico), with such state-sanctioned medical programs.

Vermont's Governor has not been shy about his feelings on marijuana and the state still remains uncertain as to how recreational use will be handled in the future. However, Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced: "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."

Under the new law, those over the age of 21 can legally possess no more than ounce of marijuana and grow as many as two mature cannabis plants. Despite this decriminalization, the Governor made it clear that "marijuana remains a controlled substance in Vermont and its sale is prohibited. Also, consumption of marijuana in public places is prohibited. 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."

Some additional negotiated provisions included in this legislation are as follows:

•Stronger criminal and civil penalties for selling to or enabling the consumption of marijuana by someone under 21;
•Criminal penalties for using marijuana in a motor vehicle with a child present;
•Criminal penalties for using or growing marijuana at facilities serving children;
•Strict penalties for possession of marijuana by those convicted of felony sale of marijuana, selling a regulated drug to minors, or on school grounds;
•Stronger penalties and fines for open containers in a motor vehicle; and
•Marijuana in excess of the permitted limit remains contraband and subject to seizure and forfeiture.

Commercial marijuana sales will not be allowed under the new law, which has an effective date of July 1.

Prior to today's announcement, the other eight states that have made marijuana legal for adult use accomplished such policies through ballot initiatives. Those states include Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada (and Washington, D.C.). Whether Vermont will expand their marijuana program is yet to be seen, but stay tuned for updates on how states' laws around the nation continue to evolve.

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