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July 1: Vermont Legalizes Limited Amounts Of Recreational Cannabis

Gov. Phil Scott signed Act 86 into law in January 2018, making it legal for adults 21 and older to possess an ounce of marijuana and cultivate a small number of marijuana plants under state law starting July 1, 2018.

Sunday marks the first day small amounts of cannabis are legal for those 21 and older in Vermont. Here's what you need to know.

At about five minutes to midnight on Saturday night Bryce Gaudreau is getting ready to mark the moment when recreational marijuana becomes legal in Vermont.

Gaudreau and his wife live down a gravel road, surrounded by woods in Chittenden County. He's in his late 20s, he's got a big beard and glasses and he’s wearing a t-shirt for the punk band the Misfits.

“It's just like it's great we're not going to put people in jail for having a pretty generous personal amount of pot on them anymore,” Gaudreau says. “But the state could definitely stand the tax revenue if you ask me...but I think that's on the table at some point.”

There’s a glass bong in front of Gaudreau and when the clock strikes midnight, he flicks a lighter and takes his first legal hit.

What Gaudreau's doing — sitting on his own property and enjoying some pot — that's kind of the crux of why Gov. Phil Scott says he signed the law.

“As I've said when I signed it, I believe it's a libertarian view — what you do in your own home is your own business,” Scott said last week.

But Scott says he's concerned about what might happen outside of homes, like impaired driving.

“It is a new reality that we're going to have to deal, that's why I do believe we have to address highway impairment and not just, it isn't just about pot. It's about highway impairment in terms of combinations of pot and alcohol,” he said.

The Governor's Marijuana Advisory Commission is expect to issue a report on highway safety later this year.

Back at Bryce Gaudreau's house, it's about 10 minutes past midnight and he's getting ready to smoke a little more. When a reporter asks if smoking pot legally feels any different, he shrugs.

“Like it’s not that different but I think just that little extra degree of freedom is cool ... it's not like a momentous thing and I think it's kind of funny there's a reporter here,” he says with a laugh.

Gaudreau says he's not much of gardener, but he's going to try to grow his own marijuana.

A Quick Refresher On Act 86: Vermont's Recreational Pot Law

Gov. Phil Scott signed Act 86 into law in January 2018, making it legal for adults 21 and older to possess an ounce of marijuana and cultivate a small number of marijuana plants under state law starting July 1, 2018.

Read Act 86 as enacted here.

The law allows those 21 and older to legally posess 1 ounce of marijuana (or 5 grams of hashish) and grow six plants (two mature, four immature) at their home. 

Confused by the language? Check out our pot glossary.

Have questions about what the law means for you? Review our FAQ.

The Health Department On Cannabis

Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine warns that people taking advantage of the new law should be careful:

"The cannabis of, you know, 2018 is not the cannabis of even five or 10 years ago," Levine said Friday. "The potency has really, really increased."

And while Health Department officials are "not exactly in favor" of legalization, Levine recognizes people who have never tried cannabis before may be experimenting with it this weekend.

He says people should be most cautious when consuming edibles — items made with marijuana butter or oil — because the strength can be harder to manage.

A Look Around The State

Office Space

Curious what the new law means for Vermonters in the workplace? Read our conversation withemploymentlawyer Heather Wright.


For those with a green thumb, gardening supply stores are gearing up for the boom of growers. White River Growpro's been talking to customers about how to grow since 2014.

The Vermont Economy

When it comes to the cannabis industry in Vermont, women have been taking the lead. Ashley Reynolds of Elmore Mountain Therapeutics says they're "'breaking thegrassceiling.'"

Public Safety & Criminal Justice

Law enforcement is readying for the new rules as well. Here's how the Vermont State Police will be handling the law.

For those with a record, some state's attorneys are working to rid Vermonters of past marijuana misdemeanors. Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George even held an "Expungement Day."

News From Our Neighbors

It's been a big few weeks for neighboring areas when it comes to cannabis, as well.

To our north, Canada's senate recently passed a marijuana legalization bill. To understand the nuances of the rules in Canada and Quebec, we checked in with the CBC's Ben Shingler.

In Massachusetts, July 1 marks the day recreational marijuana sales become legal. But a number of cities and towns around the state have a ban or moratorium on retail sales in place.

Update 8:36 a.m. 07/02/2018 This post has been updated with additional reporting.

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
Emily Alfin Johnson was a senior producer for Vermont Public Radio.
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