Vermonters enjoy legal home-grown cannabis; economic report shows strong revenue potential as legislature prepares for final consideration of a bill to regulate sales
Last update: August 10, 2020
After successfully legalizing possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and older in 2018, reform advocates in Vermont are working to finish what they started by passing S. 54, a bill to regulate and tax cannabis sales.
On February 28, 2019, the Vermont Senate voted 23-5 in favor of the bill. Then, in 2020, three House committees recommended in favor of the bill in January and February, and the bill passed the House in a 90-54 vote on February 26.
A conference committee was formed in March to resolve differences between the House and Senate before sending the bill to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the committee’s work, but advocates remain optimistic that the legislature will advance the bill in 2020. The legislature is scheduled to reconvene in late August.
On August 5, a detailed economic report was published by Vicente Sederberg, LLP examining the potential tax revenues associated with S. 54. The report found that if Vermont chooses to begin early-start sales in 2021, the state could generate over $175 million in revenue through 2025.
On January 22, 2018, Gov. Phil Scott signed H. 511, a bill legalizing possession and limited cultivation of cannabis by adults 21 and older. It took effect on July 1, 2018. Although nine other states had legalized marijuana by ballot initiative, this was the first time any state legislature legalized for adults’ use through the legislative process rather than by a vote of the people. Click here to read a summary of the law.
MPP and other members of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana are continuing the push for a sensibly regulated system for cannabis production and sale. We are very grateful to our allies in the legislature for their votes in support of ending marijuana prohibition, and we’d especially like to thank Laura Subin, the Necrason Group, and all our allies at the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana for their hard work.
Senate passes automatic expungement bill; it would also decriminalize possession of cannabis in amounts that are up to twice the legal limit
On June 4, 2020, the Senate passed. S. 294, a bill that would require the automatic expungement of all cannabis possession offenses. The bill also includes a provision that would decriminalize possession of cannabis in amounts that are up to twice the legal limit for adults.
This important bill faces an uncertain fate in the House of Representatives. If you live in Vermont, contact your representatives to ask for their support. If S. 294 is enacted, possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, 10 grams of hashish, four mature plants, and eight immature plants would become a $100 fine for a first offense. The fine would increase to $200 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense. For adults 21 and older, possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, five grams of hashish, two mature plants, and four immature plants has been legal since 2018.
Medical cannabis laws have improved over time
On June 8, 2017, Gov. Phil Scott signed S. 16, a bill that significantly improved patients’ access to Vermont’s medical marijuana program. The bill added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Parkinson’s disease, and Crohn’s disease to the list of qualifying conditions. It also authorized an additional dispensary (bringing the statewide total to five), and it allowed existing dispensaries to open one additional location each. When the patient registry reaches 7,000, a sixth dispensary (which can also have a second location) will be authorized.
In 2016, the Vermont Legislature and then-Gov. Peter Shumlin agreed to improve the medical marijuana law by passing S. 14, an MPP-supported bill that enables patients with glaucoma or chronic pain to qualify for the program. (Previously, the standard was “severe pain,” a much higher standard than “chronic pain.”) The new law also reduced the required minimum provider-patient relationship period from six months to three months and included other small, yet positive, changes.
In 2014, MPP worked with the legislature to expand Vermont’s law so more patients can benefit from safe, legal access. S. 247, sponsored by Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), passed the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Shumlin May 27. This change in law eliminated the cap of 1,000 patients who were allowed to access dispensaries. It also allowed naturopaths to certify patients, allowed dispensaries to deliver marijuana to patients, and called for a study of the potential impacts of legalization and regulation. To view the rules for the Vermont Marijuana Program (VMP), please visit the Vermont Criminal Information Center website.