On January 22, 2018, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) signed H. 511 into law, making Vermont the first state to make cannabis legal through legislative action — rather than a ballot initiative.
The law — which took effect on July 1 — makes it legal for adults to possess and cultivate limited amounts of cannabis. A governor-appointed task force is making recommendations regarding retail sales and commercial cultivation, and separate legislation will be considered to regulate cannabis like alcohol.
Here is a summary of provisions that are included in the final version of H. 511:
Legalizes Possession and Cultivation of Limited Amounts of Cannabis
Adults 21 and older may:
- Possess up to one ounce of cannabis or five grams of hashish;
- Cultivate up to two mature and four immature plants in a secure location (the plant limit applies to the entire dwelling unit); and
- Possess the cannabis produced by the plants at the same secure location.
Sends Younger People to Diversion for Growing a Small Number of Plants
- Cultivation of up to two mature cannabis plants and up to four immature plants by a person under 21 was downgraded to a civil offense, punishable by diversion and enrollment in the Youth Substance Abuse Safety Program.
Imposes New Penalties on Prohibited Acts
- Providing cannabis to minors: The law increased various penalties for dispensing cannabis to young people. For example, people over 21 who furnish cannabis to anyone under 21 — or who knowingly enable their consumption of cannabis — face up to two years incarceration and/or a fine of up to $2,000. (Dispensing cannabis to youth who are at least three years younger than the offender continues to be punishable by up to five years in prison.)
- Dangerous extractions: Individuals who make cannabis concentrates with butane or hexane face up to two years incarceration and/or a fine of up to $2,000. If someone is seriously injured as a result, they face up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
- Public Use: Consuming cannabis in public — including streets, sidewalks, places of public accommodation, and public buildings — remains illegal. A first offense carries a civil fine of up to $100, with higher fines for repeat offenses.
- Visible Cultivation: Cannabis cultivation must be screened from public view and secure from unauthorized access (including from those under 21). A first offense is punishable by a civil fine of up to $100, with higher fines for repeat offenses.
- Offenses Involving Vehicles: Possessing an “open container” of cannabis while driving carries a civil fine of up to $200. Smoking cannabis while driving is punishable by a civil fine of up to $500. Smoking cannabis while a minor is in the vehicle is now a misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $500, which increases for subsequent offenses.
- Day Care: Using cannabis at a licensed child care facility or growing cannabis at a registered family child care home is prohibited, and it carries a criminal fine starting at up to $500 for a first offense.
The law specifies that it does not:
- Prevent municipalities from imposing additional civil penalties for public consumption of cannabis;
- Modify or repeal prohibitions on driving under the influence;
- Limit schools’ abilities to impose additional administrative penalties for cannabis possession on school grounds; or
- Prevent landlords from prohibiting cannabis possession or use in a lease.
Date enacted: H. 511 took effect on July 1, 2018.