Vermont bill to legalize, regulate sales clears final legislative hurdle; Gov. Phil Scott has not indicated whether he will sign or veto
Last update: September 22, 2020
After successfully legalizing possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and older in 2018, reform advocates in Vermont are very close to finishing what they started by passing S. 54, a bill to regulate and tax cannabis sales.
On September 15, 2020, House and Senate negotiators agreed to a final compromise on S. 54, which had previously passed both the Senate (23-5) and the House (90-54) in different forms. The House approved the bill in a final vote (92-56) on September 17, and the Senate approved it in a final vote (23-6) on September 22. The bill now proceeds to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott, who has not yet indicated whether he will sign it.
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 passes S. 54, the state can expect tens of millions per year in new revenue.
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.
Automatic expungement bill proceeds to governor's desk; it would also decriminalize possession of cannabis in amounts that are up to twice the legal limit
On September 22, 2020, the Senate approved S. 294, a bill that would require the automatic expungement of all cannabis possession offenses, in a final vote. The bill also includes a provision that would decriminalize possession of cannabis in amounts that are up to twice the legal limit for adults. S. 294 now proceeds to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott.
On September 4, the House Judiciary Committee amended another bill, S. 234, to include these provisions and passed it. It passed the full House on September 11 and will return to the Senate for a final vote before it advances to the governor’s desk. You can read a summary of the bill here.
If S. 234 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.