Marijuana restrictions may be relaxed this Sunday, but this author believes there is still much that Vermont needs to address.
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.
Way back in the first installment of Midweek Marijuana Law Review, we talked about how marijuana wouldn’t yet be “legal” for a few reasons, one being the lack of a regulated marketplace. As the law is written, don’t be surprised to see many advantageous growers start their own gifting schemes.
The practice is common in other states where marijuana has been “legalized” before the installation of regulated marketplaces. Instead of selling marijuana, a person will sell, for example, a lemonade for $70 and ‘gift’ customers marijuana. It’s a flimsy loophole, but a loophole nonetheless.
Vermont needs to address the lack of authorized retailers as soon as possible. Not only is the state missing out on mountains of tax revenue enjoyed by states like Colorado; with the gifting loophole, the market will remain the wild, wild west. At least when bought through licensed retailers you can be sure of the marijuana’s quality and that it won’t be sold to minors.
Thanks to Governor Scott’s Executive Order 15-17 there is a subcommittee of the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission working solely on this issue. They are to present their findings on marijuana sales and taxation by December 15, 2018.
At the end of Act 86, there is a section that outlines Vermont’s troubles with racial disparities in marijuana arrest rates.
Sec. 17 DISPARITIES IN ENFORCEMENT OF DRUG LAWS
…African-Americans in Vermont were 4.36 times more likely to be cited or arrested for marijuana than whites, higher than the national average of African-Americans being 3.73…
…African-American drivers are four times more likely than white drivers to be searched by Vermont police, even though they are less likely to be found with illegal items…
In the next subsection, it’s written that in order to address this disparity, “…policymakers must reexamine the State’s drug laws, beginning with its policy on marijuana.”
That’s all very well and good, but as it stands there has been little to no movement on this front. Vermont need’s to take a closer look at its criminal justice system, and actively work to dismantle its baises.
Expect a flood of marijuana-related news via Vermont court decisions in the months following July 1. This statute will be a foundation to build upon, and is far from the end of the marijuana discussion in the Green Mountain State.