Adult-Use Cannabis Sales Legalized in Vermont

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Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) said Wednesday he would allow a cannabis legalization bill to become law without his signature.

The legislation, S. 54, creates a commercial marijuana market in The Green Mountain State and establishes a 14% tax on all cannabis products.

The bill — which had bipartisan support in the Vermont Senate and House — also creates a licensing system and requires the formation of a Cannabis Control Board that will be tasked with regulating the sector.

The new law is set to take effect this month, but initial licensing could take up to two years while the Cannabis Control Board is formed, and members begin meeting to iron out the details of a rollout.

Nevertheless, Vermont is now the eleventh U.S. state to permit recreational cannabis sales, and just the second to create a regulated market through the legislature.

Recall that under current Vermont law, adults (21+) are allowed to possess up to 1 oz. of marijuana without facing a civil penalty or being forced to pay a fine. Medical marijuana sales are also legal in Vermont, and adults (21+) are allowed to cultivate up to six plants for their own personal use.

Pro-cannabis groups cheered the Scott’s decision, calling it a win for consumers as well as non-users who reside in Vermont.

“Regulating cannabis in the Green Mountain State will create jobs and much-needed tax revenue while finally providing resident cannabis consumers with a safe, reliable, and legal source of cannabis within their own borders,” National Cannabis Industry Association co-founder and CEO Aaron Smith said via a news release.

For his part, Marijuana Policy Project political director Matt Simon said the “victory represents the product of more than five years of study, public hearings, difficult conversations, and hard work by legislators and advocates.”

“Vermonters overwhelmingly support legalizing and regulating cannabis sales, and one by one their elected officials have joined the chorus of support,” he said via a statement. “Vermont should be commended for the thoughtful process that resulted in the bill’s passage, and lawmakers in other states should strive to emulate Vermont’s successful example.”

Indeed, Scott himself credited lawmakers for working together to address his persistent calls for a legalization bill that included educational funding as well as a plan for ensuring highway safety.

Under S. 54, a portion of tax revenues will go toward expanding after-school and summer learning programs as well as funding substance misuse and prevention programs.

Nevertheless, he also called on the Legislature to make additional “improvements” to the law, including addressing issues surrounding vaping, marketing to minors and funding for roadside impaired driving enforcement training. He also voiced concerns about minority business applicants’ ability to obtain licenses.

“I encourage the Legislature to look to the State of Illinois as a benchmark in how to create a cannabis market that is equitable and moves toward economic justice,” he wrote.

S. 54 was written to favor small cultivators as well as minority-owned business applicants by giving them priority access to licenses. However, Scott is encouraging the Legislature to create a social equity applicant program and also proposing that minority applicants are granted reduced licensing fees.

“Justice should be foundational to our work, not an add-on to be figured out secondary to commercial or other interests,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Kevin Sabet, the founder and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) — an anti-legalization lobbying group that had been calling on Scott to veto the bill — issues a statement and expressed his displeasure with Scott’s decision.

“Today, the children of Vermont lost out in favor of an addiction-for-profit industry,” he wrote. “We are greatly disappointed in Governor Scott, who has been so steadfast in his pro-public health and safety stance, would allow the marijuana industry to expand into Vermont.”

It’s worth noting that some form of legal cannabis has been in Vermont for years. In 2004, the state legislature passed a limited medical cannabis law, and possession was decriminalized in 2013. Then, in 2018, the formation of a regulated recreational market began when Vermont legalized possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults.

Nonetheless, Sabet contends that “Big Pot” will “threaten public health for financial gain” under the new law.

“The fact is, marijuana commercialization is a failure that puts the health and safety of Vermonters at risk,” he wrote, without citing evidence of how other commercial cannabis markets have jeopardized public health and safety.

“We will now turn to the legislature to pass common sense proposals to protect public health and safety, such as measures to deter stoned driving, and we will continue building our coalition to help bring light to the harms commercialization will bring,” he added.

Under S. 54, all law enforcement must receive at least 16 hours of advanced roadside impaired driving enforcement training by the end of 2021.

According to an August study published by Vicente Sederberg, a law firm that works with cannabis businesses, the Vermont adult-use market could surpass $260 million in sales and bring in more than $50 million in tax revenue by 2025.

Additional information is available in news releases (below) from the Marijuana Policy Project and NCIA.

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Vermont Gov. Phil Scott Allows Bill to Regulate and Tax Cannabis for Adults to Become Law

Vermont becomes the 11th state to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales for adults.

Montpelier, VT — Today, Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that he will allow S. 54 — legislation to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales — to become law without his signature. With this move, Vermont joins the 10 existing U.S. states that have laws regulating and taxing cannabis for adult use.

Gov. Scott’s statement is available here.

Key provisions of S. 54 include the creation of a new independent board to regulate medical and adult-use cannabis; prioritization of business licensing for small-scale cultivators, minority-owned businesses, and woman-owned businesses; and independent lab testing of all cannabis sold to patients and adult consumers. You can find a summary of the new law here.

An economic report released in August analyzed the revenue-generating potential of commercial cannabis in Vermont. The report indicates that Vermonters will likely spend more than $200 million each year buying cannabis from retail stores, generating tens of millions in direct cannabis tax revenues through 2025.

An overwhelming majority of Vermonters support this legislation. A poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project in February found that 76 percent of Vermont residents support allowing adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses.

Vermont and Illinois are the only states that have enacted legalization laws through the legislature. All of the other adult-use legalization laws were enacted by ballot measure, a process that is not available in 26 states. As many as 10 other states are expected to seriously consider enacting legalization legislatively in the coming year.

The Marijuana Policy Project has advocated for cannabis policy reforms in Vermont for more than 15 years. The state legislature passed a limited medical cannabis law in 2004, decriminalized possession in 2013, and has gradually improved its cannabis policies in the years since. In 2018, Vermont successfully legalized possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and older, but sales remained illegal and unregulated.

S. 54 is poised to take effect on October 1, 2020, and legal sales will begin in 2022. More details on the timeline for implementation can be found here.

Statement from Steven Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“The significance of Vermont’s decision to legalize and regulate cannabis sales, especially in a state with a Republican governor and through the legislative process, cannot be overstated. Poll after poll shows that Republicans support cannabis legalization, and more and more, we see elected Republicans publicly taking that same stance and standing up for their constituents and their ideological base. The fact that Vermont accomplished this through the legislative process is also incredibly important because it shows that representative, democratic government is up to this challenge and is proving responsive to average citizens. This is an historic move that adds to the momentum of our movement, and underlines its breadth and depth, and importantly, it comes as other state legislatures are poised to seriously consider legalization in the very near future.”

Statement from Matt Simon, New England political director at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“This victory represents the product of more than five years of study, public hearings, difficult conversations, and hard work by legislators and advocates. Vermonters overwhelmingly support legalizing and regulating cannabis sales, and one by one their elected officials have joined the chorus of support. Vermont should be commended for the thoughtful process that resulted in the bill’s passage, and lawmakers in other states should strive to emulate Vermont’s successful example.”

The Marijuana Policy Project is the nation’s largest cannabis policy organization. It has been a leading advocate for federal cannabis policy reform since its founding in 1995, and it has played a leading role in most major state-level reforms that have occurred over the past two decades. For more information, visit www.mpp.org.

Vermont Passes Legislation to Regulate Cannabis for Adults

Gov. allows S. 54 to become law without signature; Vt. is now 11th state to regulate cannabis, second through its legislature

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, the Vermont legislature sent a bill to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott that would regulate cannabis for adults and allow for legal commercial cultivation, processing, testing, and sales. On Wednesday, the governor allowed the bill to become law without his signature, as well as signing separate legislation to ease the expungement process for cannabis convictions.

S. 54 would create a Cannabis Control Board to license and regulate retailers, cultivators, product manufacturers, wholesalers, labs, and integrated licenses. It would give licensing priority to existing medical cannabis providers, women, and people from marginalized communities who have been disproportionately harmed by prohibition. The legislation would also provide education and incentives for small businesses and environmental sustainability plans. Sales are expected to begin in 2022.

“This is a great day for the entire state of Vermont,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Regulating cannabis in the Green Mountain State will create jobs and much-needed tax revenue while finally providing resident cannabis consumers with a safe, reliable, and legal source of cannabis within their own borders.”

In 2018, Vermont became the first state to make possession and limited cultivation of cannabis legal for adults through its legislature. However, the law did not regulate commercial cultivation or sales, facilitating the continuance of an unregulated market within the state and encouraging residents to obtain cannabis in other states.

Cannabis is legal and regulated for adults in neighboring Massachusetts and nearby Maine, as well as in Canada. Lawmakers in New York and New Hampshire are also considering legislation to establish regulated adult markets. Vermont is now the second state to regulate cannabis through its legislature after Illinois did so in 2019.

An economic impact report released in August by Vicente Sederberg, LLP estimates that Vermont will reap tens of millions of dollars annually in adult use cannabis tax revenue.

Cannabis is now legal and regulated for adults in eleven states and the territories of CNMI and Guam. Adult possession and limited home cultivation are legal in the District of Columbia. Thirty-three states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states.


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