The state of Vermont made history on January 21, 2018 by becoming the first state to legalize cannabis for adult use via legislative action.
Eight states and Washington D.C. all legalized cannabis before Vermont, however, they all did so via a citizen initiative.
A citizen initiative involves people collecting a preset amount of signatures in order to put a measure on a ballot.
Vermont is the first and only state to legalize cannabis by passing a legislative bill instead of seeing state voters approve a measure on Election Day.
Will this start a legislative trend?
Vermont’s passage of legalization is a really big deal. Not every state has a citizen initiative process which makes cannabis legalization tougher to achieve.
Whereas polling shows that most citizens support cannabis legalization, politicians in state legislatures have been much less likely to approve of the public policy change.
Lawmakers are hesitant to be the first to do something in the political world because they often fear what backlash they could face from supporting a huge change.
Now that Vermont has legalized cannabis via its legislature, other legislatures will be more likely to do the same.
The idea will seem less radical, and legislatures in New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Delaware, Rhode Island will see discussions become more more serious.
What will legalization look like in Vermont, and how does it compare to other states?
One very big way that Vermont’s legalization model will differ from models in other states is that there will be no industry component, at least not at first.
Vermont’s legislature will revisit the issue of allowing an adult use cannabis industry to exist, but for now it will just allow consumption, possession, and cultivation.
Below is how Vermont’s adult-use model (21 years and older) compares to other legal states:
- Vermont – possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis flower, cultivate up to 2 mature plants or 4 immature plants
- Washington – possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis flower, no cultivation
- Colorado – possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis flower, cultivate up to 6 plants (3 mature)
- Oregon – possess up to 8 ounces of cannabis flower (1 while away from home), cultivate up to 4 plants
- Alaska – possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis flower, cultivate up to 6 plants (3 mature)
- California – possess up to one ounce of cannabis flower, cultivate up to 6 plants
- Massachusetts – possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis flower (1 while away from home), cultivate up to 6 plants
- Maine – possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower, cultivate up to 6 mature plants and 12 immature plants
- Nevada – possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis flower, cultivate up to 12 plants per residence but only if the residence is more than 25 miles away from a dispensary
In addition to the possession limits listed above, Vermont, Colorado, California, Massachusetts, and Maine also allows the additional possession of any cannabis harvested from plants legally cultivated at the location.
As you can see from the breakdown above, Vermont is better than Washington in that it allows cultivation, and possession limits are similar to other states.
Vermont’s model more closely models Washington D.C., in that it doesn’t have a legalized cannabis industry, yet allows possession (2 ounces of flower in D.C.) and cultivation (6 plants in D.C., 3 mature).
When does legalization take effect in Vermont?
Vermont’s Governor signed H. 511 on January 21, 2018, but the law does not take effect until July 1.
Hopefully, Vermont suspends enforcement of cannabis laws that apply to the parameters set forth in the new legalization law.
In other states that have had a delayed legalization effective date, some law enforcement agencies have found it pointless to try to go after people for breaking laws that will be changed in the near future.
Others have decided to cling to failed prohibition to the very end.
In many cases district attorneys have given directives to law enforcement that enforcement is pointless because they would not allow cannabis cases on their dockets if they involved personal amounts.
Only time will tell if that’s the case in Vermont.
The Green Flower team wants to congratulate the citizens of Vermont on being a part of history, and extend a huge thank you to the activists that made it all possible!