Cannabis Guide for the USA & Canada – Vermont, USA


Medical Use

Yes, it is allowed under 18 V.S.A. § 4471 et seq., as amended; Vt. Admin. Code 17-2-3 et seq., as amended.

Current Regime: The Vermont Department of Health adopted and implemented rules to enable physicians to prescribe cannabis. The Department of Public Safety adopted and implemented rules to govern the registration and oversight of medical dispensaries, registered patients, and registered caregivers. The Review Board, comprised of three members—a physician appointed by the Medical Practice Board, a naturopathic physician appointed by the Office of Professional Regulation, and an advanced practice registered nurse appointed by the Office of Professional Regulation—periodically reviews studies, data, and other relevant information and may make recommendations to the Vermont General Assembly for adjustments or changes to the relevant laws.

At this juncture, the Department of Public Safety has issued five dispensary registration certificates. Once the number of registered patients enrolled with the Vermont Marijuana Registry reaches 7,000, the Department will accept applications for a sixth dispensary registration certificate. As of May 7, 2019 – the date of the latest available data – there were 5,209 patients enrolled with the Vermont Marijuana Registry. The dispensary application fee is $2,500. The Department of Public Safety grants dispensary certificates based on the overall health needs of qualified patients. After a dispensary is approved, it must pay a first-year registration fee of $20,000, and an annual fee of $25,000 in subsequent years.

The Department of Public Safety reviews applications to become a registered patient. In order to be eligible to become a registered patient, a health care professional must diagnose an individual with a “debilitating medical condition” in the course of a bona fide health care professional-patient relationship. A “debilitating medical condition” means cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma, and PTSD. In addition, a disease, medical condition, or its treatment may constitute a “debilitating medical condition” if it is chronic, debilitating, and produces cachexia or wasting syndrome, chronic pain, severe nausea, or seizures. If approved, a registered patient receives a registration card, which includes the patient’s name and photograph, the patient’s designated dispensary, if any, and a unique identifier for law enforcement verification purposes. The Department of Public safety, through the Vermont Marijuana Registry, must approve or deny any application in writing within 30 days of receipt of a completed application.

A registered patient may either designate a dispensary or elect to cultivate marijuana, but may not do both. If the patient chooses the former, he or she may only designate one dispensary, and may only change his or her designated dispensary once every 30 days. If the patient chooses the latter, he or she may obtain seeds or clones from a registered dispensary, but must cultivate cannabis in a single secure indoor facility. Patients may not consume cannabis in public places.

A Vermont resident, at least 21 years of age, may submit a signed application to the Department of Public Safety to become a registered caregiver of a registered patient. A caregiver is responsible for managing the well-being of a registered patient with respect to the use of cannabis for symptom relief. A caregiver may go to the registered patient’s chosen dispensary and receive deliveries for the patient or aid with cannabis cultivation. If approved, the individual receives an authorization card, listing the caregiver’s name, photograph, and a unique identifier. A registered caregiver may only serve one registered patient at a time. A registered patient may only have one registered caregiver at a time, unless the registered patient is under the age of 18, in which case he or she may have two registered caregivers. Notably, a registered patient may serve as a registered caregiver for another registered patient.

Applications to become a registered patient or caregiver carry a $50 filing fee. Registration cards expire one year after the date of issue. Patients may opt to renew their registration, provided they submit a new application (subject to approval by the Department of Public Safety) and pay the $50 filing fee.

Generally, a dispensary may possess up to 28 mature cannabis plants, 98 immature cannabis plants, and 28 ounces of usable cannabis at any one time. If a dispensary is designated by more than 14 registered patients, however, the dispensary may at any one time cultivate and possess up to two mature cannabis plants, seven immature plants, and four ounces of usable cannabis for every registered patient for which the dispensary serves as the designated dispensary. A dispensary may only dispense up to two ounces of usable cannabis to a registered patient (or that patient’s registered caregiver) during a 30-day period. Dispensaries must have sliding-scale fee systems that take into account a registered patient’s ability to pay.

Municipalities may prohibit the establishment of a dispensary within its boundaries or regulate the time, place, and manner of dispensary operation through zoning or other local ordinances.

Notably, regulation of the medical cannabis program will move from the Department of Public Safety to the newly created Cannabis Control Board (see infra) on March 1, 2022. 

Recreational Use

Yes, it is allowed. 18 V.S.A. §§ 4230–4230i, as amended.

Current Regime: Individuals age 21 or older may (a) lawfully possess up to one ounce of cannabis and up to five grams of hashish, and (b) cultivate up to two mature cannabis plants and up to four immature cannabis plants. Individuals under the age of 21 may not lawfully possess or cultivate cannabis. Cannabis may not be consumed in public. Municipalities may enact civil ordinances to provide additional penalties for the public consumption of cannabis. Landlords may ban the possession or use of cannabis in a lease agreement. Employers may prohibit the use of cannabis by their employees.

Each dwelling unit—defined as a “a building or the part of a building that is used as a primary home, residence, or sleeping place by one or more persons who maintain a household”—is limited to two mature and four immature plants, irrespective of how many 21-year-old persons reside in the dwelling unit. Notably, cannabis harvested from the two mature plants allowed does not count toward the foregoing one-ounce possession limit, provided it is stored in a secure indoor facility located on the property where it was cultivated. Further, reasonable precautions must be taken to prevent unauthorized access to the cannabis.

The sale of cannabis is currently illegal. “Gifting” cannabis is legal, although the Attorney General’s office has advised that the transfer of cannabis for any legal consideration—e.g., buying a T-shirt and receiving a “gift” of cannabis in return—is considered a sale and thus prohibited.

Furnishing cannabis to an individual under the age of 21 is illegal. A person injured by an under-21-year-old who is impaired by cannabis has a civil cause of action against the individual that provided the cannabis to the under-21- year-old.

Current Context: While the sale of cannabis is currently illegal, a legal marketplace in Vermont is not too far away. A tax-and-regulate bill (S. 54) passed the Vermont Senate in 2019. On February 27, 2020, the Vermont House of Representatives approved S. 54, which then sent the bill back to the Senate for reconciliation. On March 12, 2020, the Senate considered and rejected the House’s proposed amendments to S.54, instead requesting a Committee of Conference. The House and Senate adopted the Committee of Conference’s Report in September of 2020, and sent the revised bill to the Governor. On October 7, 2020, Governor Phil Scott allowed the bill to become law (Act No. 164) without his signature. Recreational dispensaries could open as soon as October of 2022.

Act No. 164 creates a Cannabis Control Board tasked with regulating cannabis production and sale in Vermont. Participation in the legal cannabis market will require a license from the Cannabis Control Board. Act No. 164 created six types of licenses: cultivator, wholesaler, product manufacturer, testing laboratory, retailer, and integrated licensee. An applicant and its affiliates may only obtain one of each type of license, and each license shall permit only one location of the given establishment. By way of example, a business may only hold one retail license, and that retail license allows only one brick-and-mortar location. Licenses are valid for one year. A licensee may apply to renew the license annually. 

Import/ Export

Medical dispensaries may acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, process, transfer, transport, supply, sell, and dispense cannabis, cannabis-infused products, and cannabis-related supplies and educational materials to registered patients, if the registered patient has designated the dispensary as his or her dispensary, and to the patient’s registered caregiver. Dispensaries may acquire cannabis seeds or other parts of the cannabis plant capable of regeneration from registered patients, their caregivers, or another registered Vermont dispensary. Similarly, dispensaries may give cannabis seeds or other parts of the cannabis plant capable of regeneration to registered patients, their caregivers, or another registered Vermont dispensary. 

Hemp

Yes, 6 V.S.A. § 561 et seq., as amended.

Current Regime: The planting, growing, cultivating, harvesting, selling, storing, and transporting of hemp is legal under Vermont law. “Hemp” is defined as the plant Cannabis sativa L. with the federally defined tetrahydrocannabinol concentration (“THC”) level of hemp—currently Cannabis sativa L. with a THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. Hemp is considered an agricultural commodity.  

The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets established the State Hemp Program to regulate the growing, processing, testing, and marketing of hemp and hemp products in Vermont. The Agency is also authorized to adopt rules to implement the various statutory requirements. The Agency must adopt rules to establish, inter alia, (1) how the Agency will conduct research within the hemp program, and (2) the requirements for registration of hemp growers and hemp processors. The Agency submitted the proposed Vermont Hemp Rules to the Secretary of State’s Office on May 17, 2019. The comment period has since closed, although the rules have not yet been formally adopted.

Any individual that wants to grow, process, or test hemp must register annually with the Agency as part of the State Hemp Program. Registration fees vary depending on the applicant’s proposed operation. For example, an application to grow less than 0.5 acres of hemp for personal use costs $25, while an application to grow or process greater than 50 acres or greater than 50,000 pounds of hemp commercially for floral material production, viable seed, or cannabinoids costs $3,000. Failure to register with the Agency subjects an individual to an administrative fine. 

Investment Analysis

Since the legalization of adult-use cannabis possession and cultivation in July of 2018, medical dispensary sales have decreased. Unless a medical dispensary renounces or loses its license, or until the number of individual registered with the Vermont Marijuana Registry reaches 7,000, the number of licensed dispensaries in the state will remain at five. While hemp offers potential investment opportunities, particularly in CBD processing, the number of hemp growers (and total amount of hemp produced) in the first year of the State Hemp Program raised concerns of market saturation. Of course, the legalization of a tax-and-regulate system, which appears to be in the not-toodistant future, would open the door for a host of investment opportunities, although long-term business expansion and possibilities may be curtailed by the license limitatino contained in Act. No. 164. 

 

 

 



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