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Here’s What Vermont’s Legalization Law Allows—and Doesn’t

January 22, 2018
Vermont's new adult-use law allows limited home grows and the possession of up to one ounce of flower. You can't legally buy or sell it, but lawmakers will consider that in 2019. (CasarsaGuru/iStock)
With today’s signing by Gov. Phil Scott, Vermont becomes America’s ninth state to legalize the adult use of cannabis and the first to legalize through a state legislature.

Congratulations, Vermont!

Now, what does it actually mean?

Vermont's legalization law is one of the tightest in the nation. You may possess a limited amount, but you may not buy or sell.

That’s where it gets complicated. Vermont’s new legalization law, which takes effect on July 1, 2018, is one of the nation’s most limited legalization regimes. The new law allows for small and private home grows, possession, and consumption. It does not set up a regulated system for commercial farming or sales. That, hopefully, will come a little later down the road. Gov. Scott’s Marijuana Advisory Committee is scheduled to deliver a report by Dec. 15 that lays out recommendations for a legal, regulated state system.

The top-line brief: As of July 1, possession of up to one ounce of cannabis flower is legal for adults age 21 and older. Possession of up to five grams of hashish will also be legal. Private individuals of legal age may grow up to two mature (flowering) cannabis plants per dwelling. They may also grow up to four immature (non-budding) plants per dwelling.

Former Gov. Pete Shumlin, left, advocated for legalization, but his successor, Gov. Phil Scott, right, moved the measure over the finish line by signing the bill into law earlier today. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

There’s a Whole And/Or Problem Here

Beyond that, things grow muddled. After July 1, can you possess both one ounce of flower and five grams of hashish? That’s not certain, as the law contains some tricky use of the word “or” that confuses the issue.

Also: In some places the law says an adult may possess two mature plants or four immature plants. In other places the law says an adult may possess two mature and four immature plants.

Also also: The law mentions “hashish” but makes no mention of edibles, topicals, concentrates like shatter or wax (is “hashish” a catchall?), vape oil, tinctures, or any other common cannabis products. The use of “hashish” makes it seem like the legislators who wrote the law time-traveled to the 1970s to learn about cannabis.

Clearly, this is a law that will need some improving. Until then, we’ve combed through the final language and come up with the handy guide below.

What to Know Before You Go…and Consume

The new law:

  • Removes all criminal and civil penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, or more than five grams of hashish, for persons 21 years of age or older. As the law is written, it’s unclear whether this is an either/or situation—in other words, whether you can possess both an ounce of flower and five grams of hash, or whether you’re limited to an ounce or five grams and cannot possess both.
  • Does not allow for the commercial cultivation and/or sale of cannabis to persons 21 years of age or older. Vermont’s law is strictly a homegrow, personal-use law as it stands now. The law does, however, mandate that the state make plans to adopt a “comprehensive regulatory structure for legalizing and licensing the marijuana market.” The Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission has been directed to report on such a system by Dec. 15, 2018.
  • Legalizes the possession of paraphernalia for cannabis use for persons 21 years of age or older.
  • Legalizes the cultivation of two mature cannabis plants or four immature plants, for anyone 21 years of age or older. “Immature” means a female plant that has not flowered and does not have visible buds. Those plants must be in an enclosure screened from public view and secure so that access is limited to the cultivator. The cultivation limit applies to each dwelling, regardless of how many residents 21 or older reside in the dwelling. So: One house, two mature plants, period. The law is clear that these plants may be possessed in addition to the one ounce of cannabis flower. The law is not clear about whether a person may possess two mature plants and four immature plants—again with the “or” problem in the law’s language. In some of the law’s sections, two mature or four immature plants may be possessed. In other sections, two mature and four immature plants may be possessed.
  • Retains civil and criminal penalties for possession of cannabis above the legal limit, and for unauthorized sale or dispensing of cannabis. A person 21 or older who possesses more than one ounce of flower, but less than two ounces, and more than five grams of hashish but less than 10 grams, faces a $200 fine.
  • Revises civil and criminal penalties for possession of larger amounts—and those penalties can be significant. For a first offense, the offender will be offered a drug diversion option. That first offense may also come with a $500 fine and/or six months in jail. Second and subsequent offenses come with a $2,000 fine and up to two years in prison. Personal possession of more than one pound of cannabis flower or more than 2.8 ounces of hashish, or cultivating more than six mature plants or 12 immature plants, may face up to a $10,000 fine and five years in prison. For possession of 10+ pounds or more than one pound of hashish, or cultivating more than 12 mature plants or 24 immature plants, faces a $500,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.
  • Retains civil (not criminal) penalties for underage possession; those penalties are the same as for underage possession of alcohol. To wit: a $300 fine, 30-day driver’s license suspension for a first offense; $600 fine and a 90-day license suspension for subsequent offenses.
  • Establishes civil (not criminal) penalties for consuming cannabis in a public place. “Public place” means any street, alley, park, sidewalk, public building other than individual dwellings, any place of public accommodation (hotels, motels, etc.), and any place where tobacco smoking is prohibited. Penalties are: $100 for first offense, $200 for second offense, $500 for third and subsequent offenses.
  • Establishes criminal penalties and civil action for the act of furnishing cannabis to a person under 21 years of age. Those range from two years in prison and a $2,000 fine, up to five years and a $10,000 fine. Different penalties apply to a person under 21 who furnishes cannabis to another person under 21. (It gets complicated. Just don’t touch it if you’re under 21.)
  • Does not legalize personal cannabis extraction—in fact the new law establishes chemical extraction of cannabis (via butane or hexane) by private parties as a crime. Penalties range from two years/$2,000 up to five years/$5,000. There are exceptions under the law for state-registered medical cannabis dispensaries.
  • Defines “marijuana” as all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa.
  • Allows school authorities to impose administrative penalties for the possession of cannabis on school property.
  • Allows landlords to ban possession or use of cannabis in a lease agreement.
  • Does not allow a jail or prison inmate to possess or use cannabis.
  • Does not allow a driver or passenger in a motor vehicle to consume cannabis or possess any open container that contains cannabis. This is treated the same as an alcohol open container law. In addition, a driver who is operating a motor vehicle containing secondhand cannabis smoke shall be considered to be “consuming” cannabis. Pro tip: Keep it in the trunk.
  • Allows for the legal consumption of alcohol in motor vehicles for hire (limousines, party buses, etc), but does not explicitly allow or prohibit the consumption of cannabis in same. (I know, weird.)
  • Prohibits the sale of drug paraphernalia (pipes, bongs, papers, etc) to anyone under the age of 18. Penalties run up to two years in prison and a $2,000 fine.
  • Does not require an employer to permit or accommodate the possession or use of cannabis in the workplace.
  • Does not prevent an employer from adopting a policy that prohibits the use of cannabis in the workplace.
  • Does not “create a cause of action against an employer” who fires an employee for a policy that prohibits the use of cannabis by employees.
  • Creates a special category of prohibition for persons convicted of selling cannabis to minors, as a felony, after July 1, 2018. Those people may not possess any cannabis, and are subject to civil penalties if they do.
  • Takes effect on July 1, 2018.

Bruce Barcott's Bio Image

Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

View Bruce Barcott's articles

  • Lancaster2020

    haha… if you can’t buy or sell.. Maybe Tinker Bell will drop the goodies using fairy dusts.

    • Jackson Shredder

      I know. I was LMAO at that. Are we the only one’s that know what’s going to happen? lol

    • Reggie Wing

      or maybe amazon will fly it to your doorstep on a drone

  • Red

    (“OR “means one not both at the same time) ,And/Or means one or the other or both , And means both also.

    The term AND was used in NH for medical cannabis requirements, making it almost impossible for patients to qualify for therapeutic cannabis.

    You will need to find seeds on your own , gray area , grow indoor under lights,or outdoor ,use high fencing and netting block viewing,or screened greenhouse out of view public(plants cannot be recognized, with the naked eye. (from a plane the feds “may” still bust you )
    Never carry more than 1 Oz (“OR “means one not both at the same time) “OR ” 5gms hashish. concealed in “public” on your possession. keep your harvest at home.
    For plants OR means start 4 plants and cull 2 before they flower.
    If you can posses hash, producing hash is legal

  • massman

    Sounds like a prohibitionist backed law. Happy I live in Massachusetts.

  • Sniglet66

    I love this approach – leaves us small time, grow your own types alone and no insane taxes. I would just like to see the home grow plant number increase.

  • Para Salin

    This seems like a very poorly crafted law. There are too many unknown variables left unaccounted.
    What happens if the two mature plants you grew have produced more than one ounce of dry flowers?

    • Raul Tsi

      exactly. If you have two mature plants and you don’t yield a full ounce of buds between them then you are one suck ass cultivator, LOL

      Look, I know they mean well but this is a very plain example of people who do not possess personal experience with the ways of the weed trying to write and enact laws regarding same. New Hampshire is about to (pending the governor’s veto or not) allow possession of 3/4th of an ounce. WTF? Who the fuck buys just 3/4th of an ounce if they’re buying in bulk i.e. greater than a gram or eighth. If I could afford it I’d buy nothing but whole ounces, thank you very much.

      I think it is basically technical language to basically say to the police, let the pot go, not yours, you can’t haz seizure of property no mo’, mu’a fu’a. In the hopefully rare incidents when they have a real bad ass that needs jailing AND they conveniently happen to have a plethora of weed in possession then they can use these hackneyed quantities to full advantage.

      I know these poliitcos are trying to curry favor amongst the partakers AND save face with the prohibiters. If you were realistic, you would make the language “2 mature plants, 4 immature plants and up to 4 (or 5) pounds of cured product.” But imagine the stink if people who aren’t enlightened would learn that you could potentially get WAY over a pound from a plant IF you know what you are doing. Frankly, a pound if you’re using an ounce a week is only a 4 month supply. You need 3 pounds a year at that rate so getting a pound, pound and a half per plant is a very reasonable (and likely obtainable) goal.

      • mac

        this guy has a greenhouse 😉

    • Wayne Woodard

      Doesn’t matter as long as it’s at your dwelling and locked up where no one with out your permission can access it…if your two plants yield 2 lbs..great .Just don’t leave your house with no more then 1 oz in a sealed bag

  • Paul Sorensen

    Bruce Barcott, I like your comment about the ’70’s flashback’. I was thinking the same thing. I’m surprised they didn’t include specific limits on
    Thai Stick and Colombian Gold. I’ll just call it the ‘Zig Zag Man Law’. ( or, ‘Smoke em if ya got em’) Hopefully they develop a retail structure soon
    Regardless, great to see another state come on board!

  • DonR

    Isn’t it amazing that something that should simplify the subject makes it so much more complex? Can’t buy or sell? Well, if you donate the amount of $X, we will give you the gift of X gms. No sales, just gifts.

  • Starmaykr

    The present Vermont legalization law was tailor made for the Tax revenue benefit of the people of Massachusetts. Come July, Vermont, Massachusetts (and Canada) all become legal for recreational use. In order to legally buy, the people of Vermont will have to take their hard earned money either North (to Canada) or South to us here in Massachusetts! Any Tax benefits that should rightfully go to the people of Vermont will go into the waiting arms of Massachusetts! I sincerely salute the people of Vermont for passing Cannabis decriminalization without a ballot measure. This was unprecedented if not Revolutionary! For this reason we need to give our friends to the North some slack on the shortcomings of this first step toward lifting the prohibition. With lost revenues driving over the State lines to both North and South I am confident the people of Vermont will soon wise up and create your own taxable market to go along with your new found freedom.

  • randolini

    It may not be the best, but it beats the hell outta what we got in TX. Other than decrim in the major cities, most LEOs are only too happy to ruin a young persons life for simple possession.

  • mac

    it is better than nothing. Essentially the law is written so that nothing in VT will change at all except people will stop being hassled. All of VT has had 1-2 plants out back for years

  • mick_lowe

    Gifting? Is this discussed legal somewhere?

  • Bennet Deliduka

    this was passed because we needed legislative action (it’s how the VT constitution is written). Previous bills got tied up in wanting ‘studies’ and ‘more studies’ and ‘research’ etc…. so.. instead of attempting to pass (and then enforce) a requirement that the future legislature do something next session…. it was legalized… and the ‘future’ was admonished to ‘figure out how to tax/regulate’

    perhaps in the next several months they will come to some conclusion… and while we wait… it’s legal.. and there will be no new arrests, and there will be some curious wrangling about ‘free weed with a $60 t-shirt’

    perfect? nope…. better than things were before? positively!!!

    With Canada legalizing on the federal level and then telling the Providences “sort it out” to our north…

    And MA to our south… better to be the place people will drive between the two…