Vermont becomes 11th state to regulate adult-use cannabis markets; retail sales are expected to begin in 2022
Last update: April 14, 2021
After successfully legalizing possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and older in 2018, MPP and its allies in Vermont celebrated another major victory on October 7, 2020, when Gov. Phil Scott announced that he would allow S. 54 — the bill to regulate and tax cannabis sales — to become law without his signature. This made Vermont the 11th state to regulate adult-use cannabis sales (more states would soon follow) and the second state to do so legislatively rather than by voter initiative. Retail sales are expected to begin in the fall of 2022.
Click here for a summary of the law's key provisions. You can read Gov. Scott’s statement on the bill here.
In 2021, legislators and advocates are taking additional steps to ensure that Vermont’s cannabis industry will be fair and equitable. On March 25, the Senate passed S. 25, a bill that would strengthen social equity provisions, in part by requiring regulators to reduce or eliminate licensing fees for applicants who have been negatively impacted by the enforcement of cannabis laws. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Government Operations.
Previously, 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.
We are very grateful to our allies in the legislature for all of their efforts in support of sensible cannabis policies, 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.
Gov. Scott signs automatic expungement bill that decriminalizes possession of cannabis in amounts that are about twice the legal limit
The legislature also passed — and Gov. Scott signed — an excellent bill that requires the automatic expungement of all cannabis possession offenses. S. 234 also includes a provision that decriminalizes possession and cultivation of cannabis in amounts that are about twice the legal limit for adults. The bill was signed into law on October 7, 2020, and it took effect on January 1, 2021. You can read a summary of S. 234 here.
Under the provisions of S. 234, possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, 10 grams of hashish, four mature plants, and eight immature plants is a $100 fine for a first offense. The fine increases 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
As a result of S. 54 passing in 2020, oversight of the medical cannabis program shifts from the Department of Public Safety to a new Cannabis Control Board. This should be much better for patients than having them continue to be regulated by a law enforcement agency.
MPP has been working with patients, lawmakers, and allies to enact and improve medical cannabis laws in Vermont for more than 15 years. The first victory was a limited, home cultivation only law that then-governor Gov. James Douglas (R) allowed to become law without his signature in 2004. This made Vermont only the second state legislature to enact a medical cannabis law legislatively — as opposed to by ballot initiative. The next major improvements were significantly expanding qualifying medical conditions in 2007 and adding regulated access from medical dispensaries in 2011.
Subsequent improvements MPP helped advance include a 2014 law — S. 247 — that eliminated a cap of 1,000 patients who were allowed to access dispensaries. It also allowed naturopaths to certify patients, allowed dispensaries to deliver cannabis to patients, and called for a study of the potential impacts of legalization and regulation.
In 2016, the Vermont Legislature and then-Gov. Peter Shumlin agreed to improve the medical cannabis law again 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 revised law also reduced the required minimum provider-patient relationship period from six months to three months and included other small, yet positive, changes.
On June 8, 2017, Gov. Phil Scott signed S. 16, a bill that significantly improved patients’ access to Vermont’s medical cannabis 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. If the patient registry reaches 7,000, a sixth dispensary (which can also have a second location) will then be authorized.