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Recreational Marijuana is Officially Legal in Vermont

The bill legalizing recreational marijuana in Vermont has officially gone into effect.

A.J. Herrington

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Recreational Marijuana is Officially Legal in Vermont

Recreational marijuana is now legal in Vermont after a law signed by Gov. Phil Scott in January went into effect July 1. Vermont is the ninth state to legalize the adult use of cannabis and the first to do so in the legislature, rather than through a voter initiative.

Under the new law, known as Act 86, adults 21 and older may possess up to one ounce of cannabis or five grams of hash. They may also grow up to four immature and two mature cannabis plants. However, no sales of recreational cannabis are permitted under the new legislation.

New Law Not a ‘Sea Change’ for Vermont

Last week, Scott said he did not believe that signing the legislation will mean big changes for the state.

“I’m not sure that we’re going to see a sea change here,” Scott said. “I think a lot of what I was reacting to was what’s happening today so I’m not sure that we’re going to see anything different come Monday than we were seeing yesterday. Well, except for maybe Sunday.”

Kelsy Raap, the general manager of cultivation supply retailer Green State Grower in Burlington said that legalization was already bringing new customers into the store the first day it took effect.

“We definitely have seen a ramp up in interest and very excited after today to introduce this hobby, this therapeutic and recreational hobby to a whole host of new people,” Raap said.

Some Aspects of New Law Unclear

Some aspects of Vermont’s legalization of recreational cannabis are unclear, though. For example, the law does not specify how weight limits on possession apply to marijuana edibles, and the distinction between public and private consumption is vague. Requirements that gardens be secure also lack clarity.

Capt. Jim Whitcomb of the Vermont State Police said that as specific issues come up, guidelines will be developed for troopers to follow.

“The law is going to be developed in the way that enforcement occurs over months,” Whitcomb said.

He also noted that some issues will have to be decided by the courts. As that happens, police policy will evolve to reflect judicial decisions.

“It’s something that’s going to come back to us, case law is going to be developed, troopers are going to have to adapt as they always do in our enforcement role,” Whitcomb said. “It is certainly something we’re going to be revisiting on a regular basis.”

Whitcomb added that cannabis legalization has already led to changes in enforcement policy. Drug-sniffing dogs are no longer being trained to detect cannabis, and the odor of marijuana will no longer be probable cause for troopers to search a vehicle.

The police captain said, however, that as some things change, others will remain the same. Driving under the influence of cannabis and use in cars by drivers and passengers are still against the law. Using marijuana in parks or on beaches is illegal, and selling marijuana is not yet permitted.

Heather Wright, an employment attorney, noted that employers still have a right to establish cannabis policies for the workplace.

“As a general rule, if an employer has a policy that prohibits employees from reporting to work under the influence of marijuana, that rule still applies and can still apply moving forward,” Wright said. “If they drug test their employees, including for the presence of marijuana, employers can still do that.”

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