The cannabis industry would be a very different place if state laws were consistent across the country. Instead, we have a huge range of cannabis laws varying from states with legal adult-use cannabis to areas that ban all forms of marijuana down to the non-intoxicating CBD products. Since the various laws can get confusing, we’re breaking down individual state regulations, starting with Vermont cannabis laws.
We’ll answer the big question first: Yes, cannabis Vermont is legal for both medical marijuana users and recreational, adult-use consumers. But if you’re visiting Vermont and wondering where all the weed is, you should know that sales are not expected to start until at least October 2022.
Recreational cannabis in Vermont: rules and regulations
Cannabis in Vermont was legalized back in 2018 when the state house voted to pass H.511, an amended version of a previous bill. The law became Act 86, which legalized the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, along with two mature and four immature marijuana plants for adults 21 and older. Cannabis use in public, or anywhere tobacco smoking is not allowed, is prohibited.
While the state has legalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis, there is no current way for recreational users to buy products at a dispensary. Retail operations are expected to start in 2022, though medical marijuana users currently have access to Vermont dispensaries.
Vermont medical marijuana laws
Recreational cannabis in Vermont has only been legal for a few years, whereas the state has had legal medical marijuana since 2004. Even with medical marijuana in Vermont legalized, patients did not have access to Vermont dispensaries until 2013.
Instead, SB 76 legalized the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, and/or the cultivation of up to one mature plant and two immature plants, for qualified patients. Qualifying conditions include cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, a positive HIV or AIDS status, or another life-threatening, or debilitating condition.
The medical marijuana laws in Vermont have changed since SB 76. Patients may now grow up to nine plants, but with no more than two mature at the same time. Additionally, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and PTSD were added to the list of qualifying conditions.
Patients may also purchase cannabis from a Vermont medical marijuana dispensary. There are currently five operational dispensaries serving patients in Vermont.
Vermont recreational dispensary laws and the future of retail
When will adult-use dispensaries open in Vermont? The question is circling around the minds of hopeful consumers and aspiring entrepreneurs. Right now, the first recreational cannabis dispensaries in Vermont are set to open in October of 2022.
Here are some things to expect when doors finally open:
- Small, Vermont-sized businesses: The state wants to prioritize small cannabis growers and plans to initially only grant licenses for indoor operations no larger than 1,000 square feet. Companies may only hold one license in each license category, as well, preventing cannabis franchises from taking over the Vermont industry. There is currently no residency requirement for cannabis licenses.
- Provisional licenses for existing growers: Rather than push out cannabis growers operating illegally, the state plans to embrace their skills and welcome them into the legal market. To gauge how many of these “underground” growers may want to join the upcoming market, Vermont plans to offer provisional growing licenses before next summer.
- Social equity: Vermont’s Cannabis Control Board defines people eligible for the social equity program as either people of color and/or people “disadvantaged by the criminalization of cannabis.” They plan to waive licensing fees and provide special loans for social equity program participants.
- At least a 20% state tax: Vermont will begin with a 14% state excise tax for all cannabis products, alongside a 6% state sales tax. Local towns with dispensaries may add an additional 1% or 2% local tax to the price of cannabis products.
Perhaps the most important thing to expect is the unexpected. After all, states have been known to push back dates for just about any upcoming rollout if they want to review the policies or make changes.
Vermont Public Radio’s senior political correspondent Bob Kinzel echoed this sentiment in a recent conversation about Vermont cannabis laws and regulations.
When asked if he thought the state would start retail sales on time in October 2022, he said, “If lawmakers decide that they want to thoroughly review the key decisions made by the board, perhaps change and debate some of these policies, then the answer is most likely no.”
Regardless of when the first dispensaries open, adult Vermont residents can continue enjoying their cannabis. They just have to grow it themselves or find an alternative way to get it.