Midweek Marijuana Law Review: Dispensing Marijuana to Youth, Criminal Penalties

Dispensing Marijuana to Youth can land you in some very serious hot water in Vermont. 

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer. This piece is purely for informational purposes regarding Act 86, a Vermont bill that pertains only to Vermont and has no bearing on federal law.

One of the main focuses of Vermont’s new marijuana legislation, Act 86, is the prevention of youth marijuana use and strict penalization of those who disregard those efforts. It, and other preventative measures, make sense when you consider that a majority of substance use disorder instances started in a person’s teenage years.

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Come July 1, despite the enhanced decriminalization of marijuana for adults, dispensing marijuana to youth (persons under 21) can lead to both civil and criminal charges. We’re going to focus on the latter.

4230f. DISPENSING MARIJUANA TO A PERSON UNDER 21 YEARS OF AGE; CRIMINAL OFFENSE

  1. No person shall;
    1. dispense marijuana to a person under 21 years of age; or
    2. Knowingly enable the consumption of marijuana by a person under 21 years of age.
  2. As used in this section, “enable the consumption of marijuana” means creating a direct and immediate opportunity for a person to consume marijuana.
  3. Except as provided in subsection (d) of this section, a person who violates subsection (a) of this section shall be imprisoned not more than two years or fined not more than $2,000.00, or both.

Page 12-13

What does “…creating a direct and immediate opportunity…” mean in this case? Would leaving a baggie of marijuana on the kitchen table unattended in the house with a teenager count? Probably. How about leaving the keys to your locked bag or cabinet unattended on your bedroom bureau? That question is tougher to answer for sure, but will no doubt be answered in Vermont courts.

In these situations it’s always better to air on the side of caution. Especially when facing up to two years and $2,000 in fines. And, what is the exception mentioned in subsection (c) say?

(d) A person who violates subsection (a) of this section, where the person under 21 years of age while operating a motor vehicle on a public highway causes death or serious bodily injury to himself or herself or to another person as a result of the violation, shall be imprisoned no more than five years or fined not more than $10,000.00, or both.

Page 13

So like alcohol, if marijuana someone dispenses to a minor leads to an accident or injury, that person could be liable for damages and potentially face five years in prison.

The rest of the section lays out several age-specific punishments.

For 20 year olds:

  • Who knowingly dispense marijuana to either an 18, 19, or 20 year old commits a civil violation and shall be referred to the Court Diversion Program; or subject to a $300 fine and suspension of the their license for 30 days for a first offense; or $600 fine and suspension of the person’s license for 90 days for a second and subsequent offense.
  • Who knowingly dispenses marijuana to a 17 year old or younger could face up to five years in prison.

For 19 year olds:

  • Who knowingly dispense marijuana to either an 18, 19, or 20 year old commits a civil violation and shall be referred to the Court Diversion Program; or subject to a $300 fine and suspension of the person’s license for 30 days for a first offense; or $600 fine and suspension of the person’s license for 90 days for a second and subsequent offense.
  • Who knowingly dispenses marijuana to a 17 year old commits a misdemeanor crime and could be fined up to $500.00
  • Who knowingly dispenses marijuana to a 16 year old or younger could face up to five years in prison.

For 18 year olds:

  • Who knowingly dispense marijuana to either an 18, 19, or 20 year old commits a civil violation and shall be referred to the Court Diversion Program; or subject to a $300 fine and suspension of the person’s license for 30 days for a first offense; or $600 fine and suspension of the person’s license for 90 days for a second and subsequent offense.
  • Who knowingly dispenses marijuana to a 16 or 17 year old commits a misdemeanor crime and shall be fined not more than $500.00
  • Who knowingly dispenses marijuana to a 15 year old or younger could face up to five years in prison.

For youth under 18 years old:

  • Who knowingly dispenses marijuana to another youth under 18 commits a delinquent act.

It is also important to note that the above section does not apply to medical marijuana use and does not apply to a dispensary that lawfully provides marijuana to registered patients or caregivers.

Youth substance prevention is a big deal in Vermont. The date July 1, doesn’t really matter that much in this case. Dispensing marijuana to youth will be met with very serious penalties.

Written by The Chad

Real name is Thomas Anania. Hi.

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