Current prEvents    April 24, 2018

For the Times Argus

This year the Vermont legislature passed the bill H.511 (Act 86) legalizing home grown cannabis and the possession of “small” amounts of marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older effective July 1st. Here’s what you need to know!

What Individuals Need to Know
For adults 21 and older, the statute legalizes possession of one ounce of marijuana or five grams of hashish. This means no criminal or civil penalties for possession of these amounts. The law allows cultivation of two mature marijuana plants and four immature (not yet flowering/no buds) plants. Growing must take place in an enclosure that is screened from public view and is secure so that access is limited to the cultivator and persons 21 years old. This is the limit per dwelling unit– no matter how many people live in that dwelling unit, including multiple roommates. “Dwelling unit” means a building or the part of a building that is used as a primary home, residence, or sleeping place by one or more persons who maintain a household. So multi-unit housing will have multiple dwelling units; a single apartment with several unrelated roommates is one dwelling unit.

Estimates of how much can be harvested from a single mature plant range from 2 ounces to 18 ounces.

Harvested marijuana does not count toward the possession limit if it is stored in an indoor facility on the property where it was cultivated, and “reasonable precautions” are taken to prevent unauthorized access. This means that a grower could accumulate unlimited amounts of marijuana over time, but it must be secured or locked up.

What Towns Need to Know
It is illegal to consume marijuana in a public place. “Public place” means any street, alley, park, sidewalk, public building other than individual dwellings, or any place of public accommodation – including schools, restaurants, stores, or any establishment at which services, facilities, goods, privileges, or accommodations are offered to the general public. It also includes any place where the use or possession of a lighted tobacco product, tobacco product, or tobacco substitute as defined in 7 V.S.A. § 1001 is prohibited by law. (smoke free areas) This basically leaves individual, privately owned dwellings as the only allowable unrestricted place to use marijuana.

A municipality may adopt a civil ordinance to provide additional penalties for consumption of marijuana in a public place.

What Landlords Need to Know
Landlords can ban possession or use of marijuana in a lease. Cultivation is allowed only with the written permission of the landlord. Landlords who do not want marijuana used in their building need to put it in the lease. Landlords are not obligated to allow growing, as it is still federally illegal. Tenants who want to cultivate marijuana would need written documentation of the landlord’s permission. Per-dwelling limits apply. Plants may only be grown in a secured enclosure screened from public view. Landlords will need to consider demands of cultivation, such as lights, chemicals, mold, odor, etc. Vermont’s Section 8 housing is federally subsidized and the lease may now include an addendum prohibiting growing and use.

What Employers Need to Know
You are not required to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or growing of marijuana in the workplace; you may adopt a policy that prohibits the use of marijuana in the workplace; you cannot be sued for discharging an employee for violating a policy that restricts or prohibits the use of marijuana by employees.

What Teens and their Parents Need to Know
Possession by someone under 21 will result in completion of the Youth Substance Abuse Safety Program through Court Diversion. If the youth does not complete the Diversion program, they can be fined and lose their driver’s license.

Selling or Distributing: If someone aged 18, 19 or 20 dispenses marijuana to someone aged 18, 19 or 20, it is a civil violation resulting in Court Diversion. If they dispense marijuana to someone at least 3 years younger than they are, it is a criminal offense and can lead to up to 5 years imprisonment. Other forms of distribution may bring fines.

As a result of legalization, young people are more likely to be exposed to use or storage of marijuana in homes. Parents should add this to the list of questions they ask of fellow parents.

What is still illegal?
It is a criminal offense to dispense marijuana to a person under 21 years of age or knowingly enable the consumption of marijuana by a person under 21 years of age. You may also be sued in civil court for this crime if there are damages.
It is a criminal offense to use butane or hexane to manufacture marijuana concentrations or extracts such as shatter, butter, dab, wax, etc.

It is illegal to consume marijuana while operating a motor vehicle, including second-hand smoke from passengers. It is illegal for passengers to possess an open container or use marijuana in a motor vehicle. If marijuana is used in a motor vehicle that is occupied by a child under 18 years of age, penalties are increased.

It is prohibited to use or cultivate marijuana at a licensed child care center or afterschool program. At licensed or registered family child care homes, you may not use marijuana indoors or outdoors while children are present, and must inform families if marijuana is used during other times.

Read the bill:
Support and Interactive tools to talk about it with kids:

Ginny Burley is the Prevention Educator with Central Vermont New Directions Coalition in Montpelier.
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