Republican Governor Phil Scott today announced that he would permit legislation, Senate Bill 54, to become law establishing rules and regulations overseeing the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults. The measure will become law absent the Governor’s signature.

Vermont lawmakers depenalized the possession and cultivation of small quantities of marijuana by adults in 2018, but that law did not legalize any commercial activities involving either cannabis production or sales. Ten states currently regulate adult-use marijuana sales.

NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf said: “Ten of the eleven states that have legalized adult-use marijuana possession have also wisely regulated the retail cannabis market; until today, Vermont had been the sole exception.

“This comprehensive legislation was debated and amended over a period of several months by members of both chambers, and it is supported by a majority of Vermont voters. Senate Bill 54 represents an opportunity to bring common-sense controls to the adult-use marijuana marketplace, which is currently unregulated, unlicensed, and untaxed. While the law, as written, is not perfect, we are confident that lawmakers will continue to further amend these proposed rules and regulations accordingly in a manner that both prioritizes public safety as well as the needs of entrepreneurs looking to enter into this space. This is a victory for those who wish to disrupt the illicit marketplace and move forward with an above-ground, regulated cannabis marketplace.”

Senate Bill 54 establishes rules and taxation rates governing the licensed commercial production and sale of cannabis and cannabis products to adults. Under the plan, retail products would be subject to a 14 percent excise tax, in addition to the state’s six percent general sales tax. The potency of herbal cannabis products will be capped at 30 percent THC while concentrates will be limited to no more than 60 percent THC. Products cannot be packaged in a manner that appears appealing to children. Prior to the operation of any licensed cannabis facility, a municipality will need to hold a vote to in favor of permitting commercial activities within their locality.

The new law takes effect on October 1, 2020. However, regulators will not begin licensing cannabis-related businesses and activities until the spring of 2022.

It has also been reported that the Governor signed separate legislation today, Senate Bill 234, which facilitates the automatic review and expungement of low-level marijuana convictions. That law takes effect on January 1, 2021. The measure is expected to result in the expungement of the criminal records of over 10,000 people convicted of possessing two ounces or less of marijuana. Separate provisions in the bill reduce the penalties for offenses involving the possession of more than one ounce but less than two ounces of marijuana and/or the cultivation of three plants to a civil fine.