Cannabis is legal in Vermont. Although the state legalized medical cannabis in 2004 via S76, recreational cannabis sales recently became legal in 2020. The state waited two years to set up the legal marketplace for adult-use cannabis, with recreational cannabis sales commencing in October 2022.
In Vermont, retailers may sell no more than 1 ounce of cannabis flower or its equivalent in cannabis products to an adult aged 21 or older in a single transaction. The adult must be able to provide a valid government-issued photo ID card before being permitted to buy adult-use cannabis. Products equivalent to one ounce of cannabis product include:
Regardless of the number of mature adults living in a dwelling unit, no more than 2 mature and 4 immature cannabis plants may be cultivated by an adult aged 21 or older. Adults caught growing larger amounts of cannabis may be penalized or sanctioned by the state or any political subdivision in the state or denied a right or privilege under state law. Per Chapter 084 of the Vermont Code, any cannabis harvested from the marijuana plants cultivated at home by an adult will not count toward the 1-ounce possession limit as long it is kept in an indoor facility on the property where the cultivation occurred, and reasonable precautions were taken to prohibit unauthorized access to the cannabis. Note that adult-use cannabis delivery by licensed dispensaries is prohibited.
Also, patients approved to use medical cannabis in Vermont are permitted to possess two ounces of usable medical cannabis and cultivate nine cannabis plants at home for medical purposes. Of the 9 plants, no more than 2 plants may be mature. While adult-use cannabis purchases may be made in Vermont by out-of-state visitors, only Vermont patients are allowed to buy medical marijuana in the state.
Regardless of your reason for possessing cannabis (medical or recreational), it is illegal to use cannabis in public locations or on federal property. Moving cannabis across state lines is also illegal.
Under Vermont law, municipalities in the state must opt in to allow the establishment of retail cannabis businesses. Hence, you may be unable to find cannabis retailers in some Vermont municipalities. However, no municipality is permitted to use its regulatory authority to ban the operation of non-retail cannabis establishments.
The requirement for opting in only applies to retail dispensaries and the retail portion of a combined license. In the event that a town chooses not to opt in, it is still possible for other cannabis establishments to operate within that town, provided they comply with all local zoning and ordinances, acquire the necessary permits, and obtain applicable licenses from the CCB. These additional license categories encompass cultivators, wholesalers, manufacturers, and testing laboratories, none of which necessitate an opt-in vote in order to operate within a municipality.
Vermont's economy has been boosted by cannabis tax revenue since the first recreational retail cannabis store opened in the state in October 2022. With no tax imposed on medical marijuana, tax revenue from the cannabis industry in the state only accrues from the adult-use cannabis industry.
According to the March 2023 revenue report from Vermont's Agency of Administration, dispensaries in the state achieved record-breaking sales of cannabis products in February of this year, reaching a total of nearly $6.5 million. This figure represents the highest sales recorded in Vermont thus far. Comparing the growth rates, there was a slight increase in sales from January to February, around 6.9%, compared to the previous months of December to January, which saw a growth rate of 6.2%.
In terms of tax revenue, the mandatory 14% cannabis excise tax, applied to all adult-use cannabis purchases at retailers, contributed $906,914 to the state's coffers in February 2023. The 6% state sales tax, also imposed on cannabis products, generated an additional $388,677.
Since the modest launch of the state's adult-use market last fall, cannabis retailers in Vermont have accumulated sales totaling $24,404,171 and collected $3,416,584 in excise tax revenue as of April 2023. According to a report by the Cannabis Control Board, Vermont's adult-use cannabis excise tax is expected to top $30 million, and sales and use tax on cannabis are estimated to cross $10 million before 2026.
The industry has also created jobs for adults in the state. In November 2022, about 10 dispensaries were open in the state. By June 2023, more than 50 retail stores had commenced operations in the state, along with other establishments such as cultivating, manufacturing, wholesalers, and integrated cannabis facilities. These establishments have combined to create hundreds of jobs in Vermont.
Additionally, according to a report published by the Vermont legislature in 2016, the decriminalization of marijuana implemented in Vermont in 2013 reduced the costs of enforcing marijuana prohibition against adults to about $1 per resident per year.
Although there are no official figures released yet by the Vermont government for crime rates since the sales of recreational cannabis began in the state, marijuana possession and sale offense arrest rates have dropped since the decriminalization of adult-use marijuana in 2018. In 2018, the number of arrests for marijuana possession was 89, while the state recorded 27 arrests for marijuana sales. In 2019, both figures dropped to 46 and 20, respectively.
In 2020, Vermont recorded 34 arrests for marijuana possession and 10 arrests for marijuana sales. In 2021, the arrest numbers for marijuana possession were 34, while the arrest number for marijuana sales was 4.
Vermont adopted "An act to regulate the sale of opium, morphine, and other narcotics drugs" in 1914 to ban the possession and sale of narcotic substances, which include cannabis. In 1947, the state adopted the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act, with violators of the act subject to a mandatory sentence of 1-5 years imprisonment. Federally, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 created five schedules with varying qualifications for a substance to be included in each category. Marijuana was designated as a Schedule I drug, meaning the substance has a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value.
By 1978, the Vermont legislature passed H.669 to decriminalize cannabis. Under H.669, the Vermont legislature stipulated that arrests, criminal prosecution, and penalties are inappropriate for persons who possess small quantities of marijuana for personal use. While the state's legislature did not encourage or condone the recreational use of marijuana or any other drug under H.669, lawmakers rather proposed to ensure that Vermont residents who use marijuana were not subject to unduly harsh sanctions.
In 1981, the Vermont Cannabis Therapeutic Research Program was launched by the Department of Health. The program permitted physicians to prescribe cannabis for the treatment of cancer patients and other medical uses permitted by the rule. The program also designated the Department of Health as the sole distributor of cannabis for Vermont physicians under the program. Distribution of cannabis directly to patients could only occur pursuant to the instructions of authorized physicians.
In 2001, the Vermont House passed a bill establishing a framework for the possession and cultivation of cannabis by patients with debilitating medical conditions. However, the bill died in the Senate Committee on Judiciary. Later, a Medical Marijuana Study Committee was created to review the issue and how Vermont may implement a medical cannabis program. The Committee reported favorably on the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
In 2004, the State of Vermont became the 9th state in the United States to legalize medical cannabis by adopting S76, which establishes a registry to be maintained by the Department of Public Safety for patients and approved caregivers permitted to possess and cultivate medical cannabis. In 2011, Vermont enacted legislation allowing up to 4 medical cannabis dispensaries to provide medical cannabis to no more than 1,000 registered patients. The legislation tasked the Department of Public Safety to adopt rules and provide oversight for medical cannabis dispensaries. Later in 2014, via S.247, the legislature eliminated the patient cap, authorized delivery to patients, and permitted naturopaths to qualify for the registry.
In 2013, Vermont enacted a law (HB 200) to decriminalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis by a person aged 21 or older. Possessing up to 1 ounce of cannabis was punished as a civil penalty similar to a traffic ticket. In 2015, SB 95 and HB 277 were introduced by Senator David Zuckerman and Representative Christopher Pearson, proposing to create a regulated system of legal recreational cannabis sales. Both bills failed to pass during the 2015 legislative session.
In 2016, the Vermont Legislature passed the S.14 bill to enhance the state's medical cannabis law. This legislation expanded qualifying conditions to include glaucoma and chronic pain and lowered the provider-patient relationship period from 6 months to 3 months.
On June 8, 2017, Governor Phil Scott signed S.16, a bill that made significant improvements to accessing medical marijuana in the state. The bill added Parkinson's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Crohn's disease to the list of qualifying conditions. It also permitted an additional dispensary (bringing the total to five statewide) and allowed existing dispensaries to open one more location each. Furthermore, if the patient registry reaches 7,000, a sixth dispensary (with the option for a second location) would be authorized.
In January 2018, Governor Phil Scott enacted H. 511, known as Act 86, which eliminated penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana for individuals aged 21 and older in Vermont. This law legalized the possession of up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana, along with the cultivation of two mature plants and four immature plants per adult.
In 2020, Vermont took a step further by legalizing recreational cannabis sales. Governor Phil Scott allowed S.54, a bill introduced in 2019, to pass into law without his signature. The legislation outlined several key provisions, including the requirement for localities to opt-in to allow adult-use retail establishments. Moreover, the law emphasized granting special consideration to small-scale cultivators and businesses established by people of color and women. To oversee the implementation and regulation of the cannabis market, the law also called for the establishment of a Cannabis Control Board (CCB) along with an advisory board.