On Monday, Vermont Governor Phil Scott made history in the state when he signed House Bill 511, ultimately legalizing marijuana. The bill allows for Vermont residents to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and allows for cultivation of up to six plants. Personal cultivation laws however, only permit for two plants to be in flower at a time.
Vermont Becomes the Ninth US State to Legalize Recreational Weed
Vermont became the ninth US state along with Washington DC to legalize marijuana for recreational use. While other states in the nation legalized weed through ballot votes, Vermont took a different route. Marijuana legalization in Vermont happened through a legislative bill that Governor Scott signed into law on Monday.
“Today, with mixed emotions, I have signed H. 511,” Scott said in a statement that was given to the State’s General Assembly. “I personally believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children.”
No Commercial Cannabis Sales Allowed
While the bill calls for personal use and cultivation laws, it doesn’t address anything about creating a market to sell weed recreationally across the state.
Rather than jumping into ideas for different retail sales strategies, Scott is implementing a marijuana task force. This force will examine the state’s involvement in recreational marijuana sales, as well as focus on education, prevention, and highway safety strategies.
“There must be comprehensive and convincing plans completed in these areas before I will begin to consider the wisdom of implementing a commercial ‘tax-and-regulate’ system for an adult marijuana market,” Scott said.
Legal marijuana laws in Vermont are expected to begin in July. It’s believed that Scott’s commission will offer a final report to lawmakers by the end of the year that would influence the future legislation of a recreational cannabis market.
It could take a while before the state begins selling legal cannabis, however. According to Matt Simon, Marijuana Policy Project New England director, “The tone of the commission all along has been, ‘Let’s figure out how to do this, regardless of whether we think it should happen or not.’ They’re going to come up with specific policy recommendations. Now whether the legislature decides to take those recommendations or not is an entirely different story.”
States that have legalized recreational weed and created a commercial cannabis market have seen a significant stream of increasing income from marijuana taxes. Colorado and Washington bring in hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and legal marijuana sales reached over $6 billion in the US in 2016.
Legal Weed in Vermont: An Underground Enterprise?
And although Vermont has just become the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana, its not in a hurry to start selling it commercially. This leaves the entire trade system of recreational weed in Vermont as an underground enterprise.
“Marijuana is widely available, widely used throughout Vermont,” Simon says. “Vermonters spend an awful lot of money on marijuana and it all goes to the illicit market. Why wouldn’t we have a regulated system so that money would instead go to taxed and regulated businesses and the state would have some revenue to deal with any costs or issues that do arise?”
It’s a good question, however for now one that Scott isn’t willing to discuss any further. The Governor said he would “veto any efforts” for a commercial cannabis sales system until his task force develops specific strategies.