The battle for legalization is a non-stop one and is raging across the country. However, it is still unable to affect legislature at the federal level. Although this federal prohibition seriously hinders the progress of individual movements in states, strides are being made. Vermont is the 9th state to lift the ban on the personal use and cultivation of marijuana.
Vermonters have already seen marijuana legalized for medical purposes in 2004. Nowadays, they can have more than just MMJ containers at their disposal.
Despite the significance of the legalization process finally coming to an end, the case of Vermont is very special. Why? To fully understand the July 1, 2018, legalization, we have to dig into the legislature and explore options. We will explore how will this affect citizens of one of the northernmost states in the continental US. Let’s take a look.
History in the making
May 19, 2004, was a very significant day in Vermont’s cannabis-related history. By having then-Governor James Douglas allow Senate Bill 76 to be approved without his signature, medical marijuana was officially legalized.
The situation was still not ideal for recreational users. Growth and possession of marijuana were deemed criminal offenses. Even though progress was made, the people wished more than just to be able to hold their medical marijuana bottles freely.
The next step was set in motion by then-Governor Peter Shumlin on June 6, 2013. With his signature, he reduced the punishment for the possession of 1 ounce or less to a mere civil infraction.
This de-facto decriminalization was a clear sign that Vermont was already on its way to achieve full legalization. Shumlin repeatedly stated that he is completely for a taxed and regulated sale of marijuana. What halted the process?
Uncertainty is the answer to our question. Before everyone could lay their eyes on colorful custom cannabis packaging on the shelves of dispensaries, the Senate had to be sure about the profitability of the cause.
An independent study concluded that Vermont could gain $20-76 million by simply legalizing marijuana and allowing the taxed sale. Despite this encouraging piece of data, this difference between scenarios was too large and mainly depended on whether neighboring states would make the same move or if there were federal interferences involved.
The big day
A date to remember is surely January 4, 2018, when the state house voted for the approval of the H.511 bill. This bill in question refers to the legalization of the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, including the freedom for any adult 21 and over to grow up to two plants.
This is special because it’s the first case where there wasn’t an initiative process – the Governor and the Senate made this happen. Such a move made Vermont the first, and so far the only, state which legalized marijuana through a purely legislative process.
The provisions of the act have taken effect on the first day of July, the same year. However, there was still much to be discussed about this “infant” bill. The discussions involved everything from possible marketing to limitations concerning the sale of wholesale cannabis containers.
There is also further action to be taken to achieve a regulatory system in the future. A taxation plan is being reviewed and created by the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission (MAC). The MAC is expected to deliver its report in 2019, concerning the forging of a functional and easily-implementable taxation system. Now, we would like to focus on legal specifics and things to pay attention to.
Dissection – what to watch out for now
Rather than use a ballot initiative, Vermont has opted to go down a legislative road to allow their citizens to have their own, non-medical pop top bottles by their side. It’s important to keep in mind that this legalization only allows a limited amount of marijuana per a single adult 21 and older. What are the numbers then?
Any adult over 21 is legally permitted to:
- Have up to 1 ounce of marijuana or 5 grams of hashish (which is 0.17 ounces) in his possession
- Cultivate up to 4 immature, and 2 mature plants in a location secluded from public observation (the limit is in force per residence)
- Keep his marijuana/hashish stored at the same secluded location
- What about if a minor decides to grow plants? The punishment for this act has been demoted to a civil offense, which can result in being enrolled to a Youth Substance Abuse Safety Program.
What you aren’t allowed to do, according to the new law?
- Provide to underage individuals: Provision to minors has been made a more severe punishment, having offenders face significant time behind bars, as well as a hefty fine.
- Dangerous gases during extracting: Even though CBD extracts and similar products will be the new craze, it is strictly forbidden to extract or make concentrates using volatile flammable gases such as butane or hexane. A possible injury during this offense leads to a prison sentence of up to five years, and a fine of a potential $5.000.
- Public use: Don’t go waving that pop top bottle in the street and smoking away just yet – public use is still illegal. This goes for streets, sidewalks and every other place of public accommodation, be it a building or not.
- Visible growing: This is a big no-no. Every plant has to be secure from unauthorized access and screen from public view at all times.
- Vehicles and day care: Open containers, lit joints with or without a minor yield differing offenses, combining both prison time and fines.
- Possible loop-holes that can be exploited
- After going through the law several times, several compliance officers that we regularly consult have concluded the following missing from the bill:
- Individual municipalities have the option of imposing heavier punishments for public consumption
- Driving under the influence can also be penalized more severely
- Schools aren’t limited when it comes to imposing disciplinary actions for possession or use of marijuana on school grounds
- Landlords still have the right to prohibit the use of cannabis or possession of any container or dispensary packing in the lease they own.
We at Green Rush Packaging are ecstatic for our compatriots in Vermont. The legislative process proved it could be a viable way to establish legal marijuana laws in a previously illegal state. In the next few months, we will be following the Vermont case and report on the development of new legislature.