Who does Vermont’s cannabis law protect?
Vermont legalized small amounts of cannabis for home cultivation, possession and consumption for adults 21 and older with Bill 86 in 2018, two years before lawmakers legalized commercial cannabis with Bill 164. in 2020.
Yet Vermont remains one of the states least favorable to legal drinking. Who is most affected by Vermont’s cannabis law, why New York is being recognized for its new cannabis law, and what Vermont lawmakers can do to make the state friendlier for its residents and visitors?
What is Vermont’s consumer law and what’s going on in New York?
In Vermont it is illegal to consume cannabis in a public placeand non-owners, such as tenants – including short-term rentals, hotels and Airbnb – must seek permission from its owner or landlord before consuming or growing at home, even state-registered medical cannabis patients or caregivers.
In New York State, it is legal to consume cannabis in any public place where smoking is permitted, and non-owners, such as tenants, can consume and grow medical cannabis in their homes.
Cannabis use in Vermont is defined as any form of consumption, such as smoking, vaping, or eating edibles – all are prohibited in public places and subject to civil penalties.
Meanwhile, in New York State, it’s legal to consume cannabis in any public place where smoking is permittedand non-landlords, such as tenants, can use and grow medical cannabis in their homes, unless their landlord specifically prohibits it.
Although New York has not yet legalized home cultivation for adults, medical cultivation is permitted and the state took impressive steps protect the rights of medical patients and caregivers, such as allowing patients to consume other forms of cannabis if an owner prohibits smoking.
New York state lawmakers placed the onus on the landlord to comply with its cannabis use law, while Vermont lawmakers placed the onus on the tenant.
So who protects Vermont’s consumer law?
Vermont law restricts cannabis use to the private residence of landlords and renters who have explicitly obtained permission from their landlord – therefore, landlords are the primary demographic protected by law. If we look at who owns a house in Vermont, that will tell us who is protected by law to consume.
If we look at who owns a house in Vermont, that will tell us who is protected by law to consume.
According to latest US census data, Vermont homeownership rates are 21.1% Black, 38.6% Hispanic, 45.6% American Indian and Alaska Native, 50.5% Asian and 72.6% for whites. Compared to other states, Vermont has the 5th highest gap in home ownership among blacks in the country.
This data shows that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities are the least likely to own homes in Vermont — and therefore, the least protected by the law when it comes to cannabis use.
In addition to low homeownership rates for BIPOC communities in Vermont, and despite the legalization of cannabis in 2018, the ACLU Reports Vermont law enforcement disproportionately arrests black people on cannabis-related charges more than white people, despite similar rates of use. Providing a legal space for all Vermont residents to consume cannabis is an urgent matter of public safety.
Cannabis use and tourism
Tourists and people visiting Vermont are also impacted by the law, since public consumption is prohibited and short-term rentals, hotels and Airbnb legally require explicit permission.
With more than 13 million annual visitors, tourism is an important industry in Vermont. If adults visiting Vermont can consume tobacco responsibly and legally, they should be able to enjoy cannabis in the same way.
How Can Vermont Lawmakers Improve Cannabis Consumption Law?
Following the recent midterm elections, Vermont Democrats and Progressives now have a majority without veto power in the State House above the governor.
Vermont communities historically targeted by prohibition are not protected by state cannabis law. This is bad public policy.
We call on Vermont lawmakers to: Review the Cannabis Consumption Act in the 2023 legislative session and legalize the public consumption of cannabis wherever tobacco is permitted; like the state of New York, allow non-owners, such as tenants, to consume, own and cultivate cannabis unless their owner or owner specifically prohibits it; and create a new license class that allows consumption establishments and consumption at events with some form of direct-to-consumer sales for growers and manufacturers.
Additionally, adults visiting Vermont find themselves in a contentious situation where they can legally purchase cannabis and cannabis products without a legal place to consume them.
The same communities in Vermont historically targeted by prohibition, and which continue to be targeted by law enforcement after legalization, are not protected by the state’s cannabis law. This is bad public policy.
Additionally, adults visiting Vermont find themselves in a contentious situation where they can legally purchase cannabis and cannabis products without a legal place to consume them. New York State legislators are beginning to regulate cannabis use, protecting their residents and those visiting the state.
Vermont lawmakers should go that route in 2023, and should do so while working to address the many market gaps in adult use — not in place of that other work.
Geoffrey Pizzutillo, from Burlington, is a longtime cannabis grower and the co-founder and executive director of the Vermont Growers Association.
About the Vermont Growers Association: As a non-partisan, mutual-benefit, non-profit trade association, the mission of the Vermont Growers Association is to ensure that Vermont has a fair, viable, community-centered adult cannabis market. crafts and focused on small business through education, marketing and advocacy. We consider Vermont to be a premier state for locally produced, world-grade cannabis and related products.