Vermont is the ninth state in the nation, and the third in New England, to legalize adult marijuana use.
Don’t expect Vermont to turn into Colorado overnight. Vermont’s framework will look a lot closer to what Massachusetts and Maine have had in place for the last year and a half.
Personal use of marijuana became legal in Massachusetts in December 2016, and Maine lifted its penalties in January 2017, shortly after voters in those states approved ballot initiatives.
“I would say that what Vermont’s done is very similar to what the first phase has been in every other state other than Washington state, which did not allow home cultivation,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.
Unlike its New England neighbors, Vermont has not committed to allowing adults to buy marijuana from licensed businesses. Vermont’s law, which takes effect July 1, only removes penalties for adults who are at least 21 years old and want to grow a small number of plants and possess a small amount of marijuana.
Vermont’s law is also more cautious than some other states when it comes to the number of plants and the amount of marijuana that adults can possess.
Here’s an overview of how Vermont’s law might differ from what you’ll find elsewhere in the U.S. The federal government continues to prohibit marijuana use and possession, and taking marijuana across state lines may lead to trouble under federal law.
Vermont doesn’t allow retail sales
Marijuana has become big business in other states that have legalized it, generating an estimated $1.6 billion in tax revenue. Colorado was the first to allow retail marijuana sales in January 2014.
Vermont has taken a different approach and will continue to ban marijuana sales to the general public.
Both Maine and Massachusetts legalized marijuana in November 2016 with the understanding that marijuana would eventually be publicly sold, taxed and regulated.
Massachusetts is preparing to launch a regulated cannabis market this summer. Maine’s regulations are taking longer to get off the ground, and the Portland Press Herald recently reported that Maine might not see retail sales until spring 2019.
The Vermont Senate has voted multiple times to set up a regulated marijuana market, but the approach failed to win enough support from the House of Representatives or the governor’s office. A state advisory commission is now studying the possibility of taxing and regulating marijuana.
Vermont has different possession limits
Vermont law will allow adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, similar to the personal possession limit in Massachusetts, Colorado, Alaska, California, Washington, Nevada and Oregon.
The District of Columbia allows possession of up to 2 ounces, and Maine allows possession of up to 2 1/2 ounces.
In Vermont, marijuana that is harvested from home-grown plants and securely stored will not count toward the 1-ounce limit. This is similar to how Maine, Massachusetts and other states treat marijuana harvests.
Oregon and Alaska limit the amount of marijuana produced by home-grown plants that can be stored.
Vermont allows a relatively low number of marijuana plants
States have set a variety of limits on home-grown marijuana plants.
Vermont will allow adults who are at least 21 to cultivate up to four immature plants and two mature plants, regardless of how many adults live in the household. (People who want to cultivate marijuana must have permission from the property owner and enclose their plants.)
“What I’ve heard a lot from people around the state of Vermont is this is far too low for the amateur grower,” said Laura Subin, director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana.
Oregon limits home growers to four plants per household, and California’s limit is six plants per household. Neither state makes a distinction between mature and immature plants.
Other states allow a greater number of total plants. Maine allows an adult to cultivate six flowering plants, 12 immature plants and unlimited seedlings.
Massachusetts, Colorado and the District of Columbia allow six plants per person, or up to 12 plants per household.
Vermont did not specifically legalize marijuana ‘gifting’ — but it’s likely to happen anyway
Like other states without a regulated marijuana market, Vermont’s law leaves open a murky question about marijuana “gifting.”
The District of Columbia, whose marijuana law is most similar to Vermont’s, has wrestled with a spate of marijuana “gifting” by businesses. The Washington Post reported that police arrested vendors at one event this year where attendees paid a “donation” for a sticker or other trinket, and received cannabis as a “gift.”
D.C. and Massachusetts specifically allow people to transfer up to 1 ounce of marijuana “without remuneration,” using a standard used by many states. Massachusetts adds that the transfer cannot be “advertised or promoted to the public.”
Oregon allows retail sales of marijuana but has made it clear that unlicensed “donations” or other indirect payments for marijuana are against the law.
Vermont’s law is silent on the topic of marijuana transfers and gifts. Observers expect to see people in Vermont give marijuana to each other, but it’s unclear how law enforcement will interpret the boundary between a gift and an illegal sale.