Vermont Governor Phil Scott OKs Bill Creating Regulated Cannabis Market

VERMONT: Governor Phil Scott today announced action on a range of bills, including the Legislature’s bill to create a regulated cannabis market in Vermont, which will be allowed to go into law without his signature.

Throughout the Legislature’s four-year push to create a regulated cannabis market, Governor Scott has consistently called for any legislation to include a plan and funding for expanded education and prevention programs for Vermont kids, a plan for highway safety and the ability for communities to prohibit retail cannabis businesses. Governor Scott said the Legislature has moved slowly toward his position in these areas.

“This new bill requires cities and towns to authorize these businesses before retail establishments may open. It ensures local zoning applies to cannabis cultivation and production. It dedicates 30% of the excise tax, up to $10 million per year, to education and prevention efforts. And the sales and use tax on cannabis would fund a grant program to expand after school and summer learning programs,” the Governor said. “Additionally, the FY21 budget includes language I proposed to move toward a universal after school network, which is based on a successful model from Iceland and is focused on preventing drug use and improving academic and social outcomes.”

The Governor also highlighted several new provisions to enhance safety on the roadways, including allowing testimony of trained officers and Drug Recognition Experts regarding impairment to be presumed admissible in court, and accepting saliva testing as evidence if performed.

Though these provisions addressed many of Governor Scott’s longstanding concerns, he also called for additional action from the Legislature to address remaining deficiencies in the bill.

“Their work is not done,” he said. “The Legislature needs to strengthen education and prevention – including banning marketing that appeals in any way to our kids – otherwise they are knowingly failing to learn the lessons of the public health epidemic caused by tobacco and alcohol.”

While recognizing that some social justice elements are included in the bill, Governor Scott also noted concerns from communities historically most negatively affected by cannabis enforcement that the bill did not do enough to ensure more equity in this new market. He encouraged legislators to revisit these concerns and work with his Administration and these communities to address them in January.

His letter to the Legislature outlines specific areas for consideration on racial equity, changes to the board appointment timeline and accountability structure, creation of a special fund for education programming and a ban on the sale of vaping products and marketing that appeal to kids.

“This has been a top priority for the majority in the Legislature for four years, but their work is not complete. They must ensure equity in this new policy and prevent their priority from becoming a public health problem for current and future generations. For these reasons, I am allowing this bill to become law without my signature,” concluded Governor Scott.

Click here to view the Governor’s letter to the Legislature regarding S.54.

Governor Scott also allowed S.119 to go into law without his signature, noting he agreed with the goals of the legislation but urged lawmakers to revisit the hastily drafted bill with additional input from marginalized communities and public safety officials.

Click here to view the Governor’s letter to the Legislature regarding S.119.

In addition, Governor Scott signed several other bills today:

  • S.24, An act relating to a report on racial equity and bias in the Department of Corrections, which accelerates work to develop a racial equity plan that will include data collection, employment and supervision of people under the custody of the Department of Corrections;
  • S. 124, An act relating to governmental structures protecting the public health, safety and welfare, which makes changes to law enforcement training and policy;
  • S.234, An act relating to miscellaneous judiciary procedures, which orders the expungement of all criminal records relating to the possession of cannabis in amounts that have been decriminalized; and
  • S.352, An act relating to making certain amendments to the Front-Line Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program, which updates the hazard pay program passed earlier this year.

To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2020 legislative session, visit https://governor.vermont.gov/governor-scotts-blog/2020-legislative-session.

NORML PAC Endorses Senator Bernie Sanders for Reelection

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Political Action Committee (NORML PAC) has endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders in his campaign for reelection in Vermont.

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“Bernie has become one of the most outspoken and visible advocates for ending marijuana prohibition,” stated NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri, “He has called for sensible drug policy throughout his career, made descheduling marijuana a key component of his platform when running for the Democratic nomination for President in 2016, and has co-sponsored key pieces of federal legislation such as the Marijuana Justice Act. Senator Sanders doesn’t restrict his fight for reform to backroom meetings and floor speeches in Congress, he takes our message with him as he holds massive rallies and town halls across not just the state of Vermont, but throughout the country. His fire and passion have helped elevate our issue in the national dialogue and we are honored to support his reelection campaign. He is a true leader in the marijuana legalization revolution.”

Heady Vermont Hosts Second Annual Hemp Fest – Sept. 8-9 in Burke

VERMONT: Heady Vermont will host its second annual Vermont Hemp Fest, taking place September 8-9, 2018 at Burke Mountain Hotel and Conference Center in East Burke, Vermont.

Already one of Vermont’s premiere cannabis events, Hemp Fest 2018 will feature two days of programming, including a keynote address from Oregon CBD’s Seth Crawford, Ph.D, agricultural, hemp and CBD exhibitors, an exclusive investors’ forum, food trucks, live music, yoga, and a hemp brunch on Sunday morning. This event will not include cannabis containing THC and is open to all ages.

Hemp Fest 2018’s interactive panel presentations will include topics such as CBD Hemp Cultivation, Harvesting, Testing, processing CBD products, selling your Vermont hemp crop, Industrial Hemp Processing, Starting a Vermont Hemp Business, Insurance, Compliance and Staying Legal, State and Federal Cannabis Regulations, and Making CBD Products.

“People around the country and region are starting to realize that Vermont is quickly becoming a national leader in CBD and Hemp cultivation,” says Heady Vermont co-founder and Hemp Fest organizer Eli Harrington. “The number of registered hemp permits in Vermont has quadrupled, public interest and business interest has increased exponentially. It’s still early in the hemp industry and this is the kind of event where people in the northeast get together and make those priceless connections in person.”

Reflecting the growth of the CBD Hemp industry in Vermont and nationally, the 2018 Vermont Hemp Fest will feature keynote speaker Seth Crawford, Ph.D., co-founder of Oregon CBD, one of the country’s largest cannabis breeding companies. Crawford thinks that this year’s Hemp Fest is happening at a critical historical moment.

“Once the Farm Bill is signed into law,” says Crawford, “non-psychoactive cannabis becomes legal nationwide. Those endless fields of cannabis we used to dream about during prohibition are now possible. Some are already being grown by forward thinking farmers in early adopting pilot program states like Vermont and are being transformed into food, fiber, oil, and flowers. This is literally the ground floor of an international market for a crop with limitless potential.”

Preference for vendor spaces is being given to Vermont companies, and while tickets are $40 for the general public, discounted tickets are available to Heady Vermont members, residents of the Northeast Kingdom, patients, caregivers and veterans. Full weekend tickets and Sunday Only passes are both available for purchase on the Heady Vermont website.

As a sponsor, Burke Mountain is offering a limited number of 25% discounted rooms starting at $112 per night to attendees and exhibitors from Thursday, September 6 through Sunday, September 9, 2018. Those discounts can be redeemed by booking directly on the Burke Mountain Hotel website by using the code ‘HFEST’. In addition to the hotel, campsites are available at the Burke Mountain Campground’s 25 sites and 5 lean-tos. Both those accommodations can be booked on the Burke Mountain Hotel website, or by calling the hotel directly at (866) 966-4820.

Hemp Fest sponsors include iaso goods, Lily Hill, Vermont Hempicurean, and Ropana CBD.

Address: Burke Mountain Hotel and Conference Center, 2559 Mountain Rd, East Burke, VT. Saturday, September 8, 11am – 10pm, Sunday, September 9, 10am-1pm.

Marijuana Legalization Could Come To These 12 States This Year

By Eric Weisbrot

Despite strong efforts to maintain the criminalization of marijuana use in the United States, many individuals and lawmakers have taken a step in the direction of legalization over the last several years. Currently, there are 29 states that allow for medical marijuana use, under particular limitations, and a smaller percentage that give residents the ability to use marijuana on a recreational basis under state law. The federal government has been slow to end prohibition of the drug, but recent research shows growing support for legalization on a state level for many reasons.

One of the strongest components of marijuana legalization support revolves around the well-documented success of states that have eliminated prohibition for residents. The states that allow for recreational use of marijuana have systems in place to ensure the tax revenue and economic growth is regulated, mostly through the use of bonding and licensing requirements for dispensaries, growers, and distributors. Based on the positive outcomes legalized states have generated, there are 12 more states considering legalizing marijuana use on some level in 2018.

Michigan: In the state of Michigan, there is a current initiative to gather the 250,000 signatures needed to include a marijuana legalization bill on the ballot in the 2018 election cycle. If approved, the bill would allow for recreational use of the drug for those over the age of 21 who are also residents of the state.

Delaware: In late 2017, a legislative task force was formed in order to analyze the impact marijuana use has on state residents from a recreational standpoint. A bill was shot down in 2017, but the hope is that an opportunity remains in 2018 after the findings of the task force are made public.

New Jersey: With a Democratic-led legislature, New Jersey is poised to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in 2018. A skyrocketing criminal justice cost along with proven racial injustices in the state are the prime motivators behind passing such legislation this year.

Vermont: A bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana was approved in Vermont in May 2017, but it was vetoed by the governor at the time. A commission tasked with studying the issues surrounding recreational marijuana use, including health concerns and driving impairment statistics, was created at that time. Based on the results of the commission’s work, legislation is set to pass in Vermont in 2018 allowing adults over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivation of two mature plants.

Oklahoma: During either the June or November elections, Oklahoma is set to add a bill to the ballot for medical marijuana use legalization for state residents.

Ohio: Lawmakers in Ohio failed to get a bill passed to legalize recreational marijuana use in the last three years, but a ballot proposal is intended to be included during the midterm election cycle this year.

Connecticut: Thanks to local efforts from lawmakers in Harford, Connecticut legislature is set to include a statewide ballot vote for recreational marijuana legalization in November 2018.

Rhode Island: After forming a legislative commission in 2017, Rhode Island may be one of the next states to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2018. The commission sought to research the impacts of the drug on its community, based on neighboring studies in Massachusetts and Maine.

Kentucky: A bill for the legalization of medical marijuana may be on the docket in 2018 for residents of Kentucky. Although there is little support from the current governor, advocates for the drug’s medical use may beat the odds during the midterm election cycle.

Utah: Medical marijuana may be legalized in Utah, following in the footsteps of several other states nearby. The ballot for the midterm elections should include a bill for Utah voters to weigh in on in 2018.

South Dakota: South Dakota may also be close to legalizing medical marijuana, as signatures are currently being gathered for a ballot initiative slated for 2018 election inclusion.

Missouri: Similar to South Dakota, signatures are currently being collected for a medical marijuana bill in Missouri which would allow voters to make the decision in this election cycle.


Eric Weisbrot is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds. With years of experience in the surety industry under several different roles within the company, he is also a contributing author to the surety bond blog.  

Vermont: Adult Use Marijuana Law Enacted

VERMONT: Legislation permitting adults to legally possess and grow set quantities of cannabis for their own personal use took effect on Sunday, July 1.

Vermont joins Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington in legalizing the adult possession and use of marijuana. It is the first state to enact legalization via an act of the legislature rather than by the passage of a voter initiative.

The new law, which Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed in January, legalizes the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, as well as the private cultivation of six marijuana plants (two mature and up to four immature). Those who cultivate marijuana for their own personal use may possess at home the total quantity of their harvest. The measure also imposes new civil penalties with regard to the consumption of cannabis while driving, and imposes additional penalties for those who operate a motor vehicle impaired with a minor in the vehicle.

summary of the law is available online.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott Signs H. 511 Legalizing Marijuana For Adult Use

VERMONT:  On January 22nd, 2018 Governor Phil Scott signed H. 511, An act relating to eliminating penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older, into law.

Read his full message to the General Assembly below:

“Today, with mixed emotions, I have signed H. 511.

“As I said when I vetoed S. 22 in May, I personally believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children.  In this context, it is very important to understand what H. 511 does and does not do.

“While this legislation decriminalizes, for adults 21 and older, personal possession of no more than 1 ounce, and cultivation of two mature plants on their private property, marijuana remains a controlled substance in Vermont and its sale is prohibited.  Also, consumption of marijuana in public places is prohibited.  Consumption of marijuana by operators and passengers in a motor vehicle is prohibited.  Schools, employers, municipalities and landlords are also empowered to adopt policies and ordinances further restricting the cultivation and use.

“In addition, when we negotiated a compromise prior to the veto session in June, I insisted the legislation also include:

  • Stronger criminal and civil penalties for selling to or enabling the consumption of marijuana by someone under 21;
  • Criminal penalties for using marijuana in a motor vehicle with a child present;
  • Criminal penalties for using or growing marijuana at facilities serving children.
  • Clear legal liability of the consequences of making marijuana available to minors.
  • Strict penalties for possession of marijuana by those convicted of felony sale of marijuana, selling a regulated drug to minors, or on school grounds;
  • Stronger penalties and fines for open containers in a motor vehicle; and
  • Marijuana in excess of the permitted limit remains contraband and subject to seizure and forfeiture.

“H. 511 included these additional protections.

“My S.22 veto message also plainly expressed my reservations about a commercial system which depends on profit motive and market driven demand for its growth.  I look forward to the Marijuana Advisory Commission addressing the need to develop comprehensive education, prevention and highway safety strategies. To be very direct:  There must be comprehensive and convincing plans completed in these areas before I will begin to consider the wisdom of implementing a commercial “tax and regulate” system for an adult marijuana market. It is important for the General Assembly to know that – until we have a workable plan to address each of these concerns – I will veto any additional effort along these lines, which manages to reach my desk.

“More importantly, as I noted in my State of the State address, I ask the General Assembly to now turn its efforts to addressing more significant issues faced by Vermonters in their daily lives.”

Click here to view the letter sent to the General Assembly.

Legalization In Vermont, 6 questions For MPP’s Matt Simon

by Bailey Hirschburg 

Vermont is poised to become the first state to legalize cannabis through its legislature, rather than the ballot box. House Bill 170 narrowly passed the house early last month, the bill would all legalize possession of up to an ounce of cannabis and growing up six plants (2 mature, 4 immature) by people 21 and older.

Matt Simon is the New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and on the staff of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana (VCRM). The coalition represents individuals and organizations around the state favoring reform.

I met Mr. Simon in 2007, while he was the executive director for the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy. Since working with MPP, he’s made progress in both states. He was significantly involved in the successful 2013 campaign for Vermont’s decriminalization law and that same year led the efforts to allow medical marijuana in New Hampshire.

Last month, Republican Governor Phil Scott vetoed HB 170, and sent recommendations back to the legislature. I talked with Simon about what comes next.

Bailey Hirschburg: You’ve had some experience helping Vermont to decriminalize marijuana in 2013, and lobbying for reform in neighboring New Hampshire. How did those efforts impact your group’s ability to make progress on legalization this year?

Matt Simon: MPP has been involved in Vermont since roughly 2002. We campaigned for the medical marijuana law, which passed in 2004, and then for the bill that added dispensaries in 2007. We pushed for the decriminalization bill that passed in 2013, and this year we were pleased to see the legislature finally include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying medical condition. The reforms we championed have worked well and haven’t led to the problems that critics warned about, which is why I think most legislators now take us very seriously. At this point, the only complaints he hear about Vermont’s marijuana policy reforms are that they haven’t yet gone far enough.

[Following this interview, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed Senate Bill 16 into law. As well as PTSD, the bill adds Parkinson’s and Crohn’s disease, allows expanded dispensary locations, personal cultivation rights for patients, among other changes.]

BH: States that have legalized marijuana so far have done it at the ballot box. What were the main differences in how you lobby a legislature versus the general public?

MS: It’s completely different. By nature it’s a slow and deliberate process. One reason is that lawmakers hear from a loud minority of the public who are eager to call or complain, while supporters of reform are sometimes reluctant to speak their minds. Another reason is that elected officials tend to be an older demographic than the general voting public, and many have close relationships with law enforcement leaders and other opponents of reform. We know that legalization enjoys majority support from the public, but getting a majority of legislators on board with a specific bill is a very different and much more difficult task.

BH: On cannabis, your biggest allies or opponents are often well known. How did you identify and influence politicians on the fence about legalized pot? 

MS: Our success this year hinged on being able to get a bill through the House Judiciary Committee, which had rejected legalization in the previous year. We had more success in that committee framing the issue as bi-partisan criminal justice reform than as a commercial opportunity. But we still had members to convince, and we were able to do so by organizing effective testimony and working to address each legislator’s concerns. Some legislators who voted in favor still had concerns, but they understood that prohibition is a failed policy, and many felt a sense of inevitability, knowing that marijuana has already been legalized in Massachusetts and Maine.

[Massachusetts and Maine legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, and Connecticut is discussing legalization in its legislature.]

BH: Governor Scott’s veto of this came with specific recommendations for penalties to using cannabis while driving, around children, and giving Vermont longer to study a taxation and regulation. How likely is the legislature to address those concerns during the veto session?

MS: Well, none of it is a deal breaker. Will the legislature be able to agree on policy changes in advance of the June 21st veto session? I think so. The bigger question is whether, procedurally, it will be possible to pass a new bill through both chambers of the legislature during a veto session that is only supposed to last two days. If that turns out to not be possible, the bill could pass in a special session later this year (if one is called) or when the legislature reconvenes in January.

BH: If they do, do you trust Gov. Scott will keep his word and sign it into law?

MS: I think [the legislature] will make the changes Scott wants, and I think he will sign the bill when it comes to his desk. He has a chance to be a hero to a lot of people by signing it.

BH: Has there been any involvement or response from the U.S. Justice Department?

MS: (Chuckling) No. If they can’t stop Washington D.C. from allowing marijuana possession and cultivation, what are they gonna do in Vermont?

Vermont: Governor Rejects Marijuana Depenalization Measure

VERMONT:  Republican Gov. Phil Scott has rejected legislation, Senate Bill 22, that sought to eliminate criminal and civil penalties for the adult use and possession of marijuana. The Governor said that he did not support the legislation as written, but remains open to working with lawmakers over the summer on ways to amend the state’s cannabis policies.

Representatives from the Vermont Association of Police Chiefs, the Vermont Medical Society, and the Vermont American Academy of Pediatrics were among those groups opposing S. 22.

“It is disappointing that Gov. Scott would not only defy the will of state legislators, but also the will of the majority of Vermont voters who support ending criminal penalties for those adults who consume cannabis responsibly,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “Minor marijuana possession offenders should not be saddled with a criminal record and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it. Rather than looking to the future, Gov. Scott seems intent on repeating the failures of the past.”

Senate Bill 22 would have amended state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to two mature plants (and up to four immature plants) would have no longer been subject to penalty, beginning July 1, 2018. It also established a nine member commission to make recommendations to the legislature regarding how best to regulate the adult use marijuana market.

State lawmakers approved the measure earlier this month. It was the first time that a legislative body ever approved legislation eliminating criminal and civil penalties for adults who possess or grow marijuana for non-medical purposes.

House lawmakers in 2016 rejected similar legislation. That measure had been supported by former Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Senate Leaders: Vermont Pot Bill Unlikely To Pass

By Associated Press 

VERMONT: Top Senate lawmakers in Vermont say passing a marijuana legalization bill is becoming exceedingly unlikely.

The Vermont House is still debating their version of a legalization bill, which would simply legalize personal cannabis use, possession and cultivation. There are just over three weeks to go in the lawmaking session and Senate lawmakers expected the bill to get to them weeks ago.

Senate leaders also say the House bill would continue to allow for a black market, and they favor a law that would tax and regulate sales of the plant. A Senate measure in 2016 that proposed a legal marijuana market died in the House last year.

Vermont’s constitution disallows referendums, thwarting another avenue to legalize marijuana as other states have done.

 

Vermont Legislative Committee To Ponder State Marijuana Laws

VERMONT: A Vermont lawmaker says the House Judiciary Committee is likely to consider the further decriminalization of marijuana — or even its legalization — in the current session.

Democratic Rep. Maxine Grad, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, says the decriminalization of marijuana has been working well in Vermont.

Grad, of Moretown, tells the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus she’s uncomfortable with current law that makes possessing one type of marijuana a civil violation while possession of another type remains a criminal offense.

Last year, the Senate passed legislation that would have created a legal, regulated marijuana market in Vermont, but the measure was easily defeated in the House.

New Republican Gov. Phil Scott has said he is in no hurry to legalize marijuana.