Vermont is the 11th state to allow recreational cannabis sales to adults after Republican Gov. Phil Scott allowed the tax-and-regulate bill to become law without his signature. Vermont lawmakers legalized adult-use cannabis possession in 2018 but did not include sales mechanisms.
In a letter to Senate Secretary John Bloomer, Scott said the measure addresses conditions he had laid out, which prevented his veto of the reforms. Those conditions included municipal control over whether to allow recreational sales, cannabis use education and prevention programs and funding, and a plan for highway safety.
The bill requires 30 percent of cannabis excise taxes to be used for education and prevention efforts, up to $10 million annually, and portions of the tax to be used for afterschool and summer learning programs. The bill includes a 14 percent excise tax and a 6 percent sales tax on cannabis purchases.
The measure does not include provisions for mandatory roadside saliva testing for suspected intoxicated drivers, which Scott had supported, but it does allow testimony from Drug Recognition Experts and saliva test results, if performed, to be admissible in court.
In his letter, Scott voiced concerns about the impact of the bill on “communities historically most negatively affected by cannabis enforcement,” saying they “were not meaningfully incorporated” into the bill. Scott said during a debate last week that he might veto the measure after getting feedback from social justice groups who contend the bill does not do enough to address social equity. The measure does include some priority licensing for social equity applicants.
“Of primary concern is the licensing construct which will disproportionately benefit Vermont’s existing medical dispensaries by giving them sole access to integrated licenses and an unfair head start on market access. This creates an inequitable playing held both for our smaller minority and women-owned business applicants, and other small Vermont growers and entrepreneurs.” – Scott in the Oct. 7 letter
Tim Fair, attorney and founder of Vermont Cannabis Solutions, described the bill as “imperfect, but a great start.”
“What’s really exciting is how accessible the industry will be for the average Vermonter,” he told Ganjapreneur in a text message. “Anyone who wants to be part of it will have their chance.”
Scott did sign a measure that provides for automatic expungement of previous low-level cannabis crimes, including possession under an ounce. It also permits adults to grow one extra mature and one extra immature cannabis plant.
While Vermont was the first state to legalize cannabis for adults via the legislative process, it is the second state – behind Illinois – to legalize adult-use cannabis sales, which are expected to begin in the state in October 2022.