Montpelier, VT- Next month new cannabis laws will take effect in Vermont. Unfortunately, it appears a bit of confusion is also on the way.
Although new regulations will be implemented on July 1, they have not been reconciled with the current laws on the books.
While not a full functional recreational cannabis market, Vermont residents, 21 and over, will be permitted to possess 1 oz of cannabis flower and grow their own plants outdoors. Currently, there are no stated limits on how many plants non-patients can cultivate as long as the property is securely closed off and the property owner has granted permission. Cannabis patients, on the other hand, can possess up to 2 oz of cannabis flower and are limited to growing three plants. Patients are required to keep their plants indoors.
So far, the Vermont Legislature has not taken action to clarify how the new regulations will impact the previous laws. Governor Phil Scott vetoed a bill earlier this year that addressed some of the issues.
For the current 6,000 cannabis patients in Vermont, the messy legal situation is causing confusion.
“We tried to update that,” Democratic Sen. Dick Sears, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said according to the Burlington Free Press. “It is what it is.”
But the problems may not end with how much flower residents can possess or how many plants they can cultivate. Cannabis possession will be legal for all adults on July 1, but only patients will be able to purchase it through dispensaries.
“We need to figure out how to have two systems,” said Rep. Ann Pugh, D-South Burlington, chairwoman of the House Committee on Human Services. “Or for that matter, do we now need to have two systems?”
Lindsey Wells, an administrator for Department of Public Safety’s cannabis program said that registration for medical recommendations has flatlined.
Nick Karabelas, a registered patient who uses cannabis to treat chronic pain, does not have a dispensary in his area and has to produce his own supply. Karabelas does not see any advantage to remaining a patient only to abide by stricter growing limits than non-patients face.
“I find myself wondering, ‘What are the benefits of being a patient in the registry?'” Karabelas wrote to lawmakers in last month. “If the state and the dispensaries want to continue with the program, they’re going to need patients. As someone who advises and helps register patients, it’s getting progressively more difficult to encourage them to participate in the program.”
Some members of the legislature felt they had to deal with other issues before clarifying the new cannabis regulations.
“To be perfectly honest, there were issues of greater importance to more Vermonters that came across from the Senate that we needed to deal with first,” Pugh said.
But for patients such as Karabelas, the lack of clarity is a pressing issue.
“I find it personally rude and insulting, as a patient, that they don’t want to deal with it,” Karabelas said.