Vermont has officially become the ninth state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The new law took effect over the weekend and gives residents certain rights with respect to the cannabis plant. However, it doesn’t as far as enlisting a taxed and regulated scheme like other legal states. This means there are no retail dispensaries like in Colorado and California, according to a recent report from the Burlington Free Press.
The way Vermont went about legalizing the leaf is important in the grand scheme of cannabis reform. Instead of cannabis advocates pushing an expensive initiative through the ballot measure process, the state legislature took on the issue at the Capitol. Vermont is the first state to legalize in this fashion. Other states have tried and failed to legalize in this manner due to the inability of lawmakers to reach consensus on what exactly legalization should look like. But there is hope that now that one state legislature has found a way that others will follow suit.
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Still, the Vermont Legislature did not create a perfect system. The state’s recreational law gives adults 21 and older the freedom to possess up to 1 ounce of weed and grow as many as two mature (four immature) cannabis plants at home for personal use.
There are no provisions built in to allow weed to be sold to adults in a manner similar to beer. Therefore, the only way for residents to get their hands on marijuana is to either grow their own or continue to lean on black market sources. In other words, the new law does nothing to chisel away at the business of illegal street dealing. Any person caught selling marijuana is subject to arrest and prosecution.
All in all, not much is expected to change throughout the state. The only difference is a lot less people will be going to jail for simple possession. There might even be more residents compelled to start growing their own cannabis crops. It remains illegal to smoke weed in cars, on Lake Champlain, beaches, parks or anywhere else in public view. The law basically gives adults permission to conduct cannabis activities behind closed doors.
“I’m not sure that we’re going to see a sea change here,” Governor Phil Scott said ahead of the state’s official launch date for recreational marijuana. “I think a lot of what I was reacting to was what’s happening today so I’m not sure that we’re going to see anything different come Monday than we were seeing yesterday. Well, except for maybe Sunday.”
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The new law is a start. Cannabis advocates will soon begin pressuring lawmakers to introduce legislation aimed at establishing a full-blown cannabis market. There is hope that lawmakers will see just how much tax revenue the state stands to lose under the current setup and move to deliver more legitimacy to the system by opening it up to commercial growers and sellers. After all, this is the only way to put a dent in black market activity.