Vermont Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

January 26, 2018

Vermont has become the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana with Governor Phil Scott signing a law this week. Notably, this marks the first recreational marijuana law to be enacted by a state legislature instead of a ballot initiative.

Effective July 1, 2018, all penalties for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana in the Green Mountain state will be eliminated. In addition, individuals 21 or older will be permitted to grow a limited number of marijuana plants, provided they are screened from public view. However, the law does not create a state marketplace for marijuana sales.

From an employer's standpoint, the Vermont law provides a number of safeguards. For instance, it makes clear that public consumption of marijuana remains illegal. In addition, the law explicitly states that it does not:

  • Prevent an employer from banning marijuana use in the workplace;
  • Require an employer to accommodate marijuana use; or
  • Permit fired employees to sue an employer if they were terminated for violating a policy prohibiting marijuana use by employees.

The measure also strengthens penalties for selling marijuana to people under 21, and makes it a crime to use marijuana in a vehicle with a child present.

With the new law, Vermont joins the following states in addition to the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational marijuana to varying degrees:

  • Alaska;
  • California;
  • Colorado;
  • Massachusetts;
  • Maine;
  • Nevada;
  • Oregon; and
  • Washington.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana is legal in 29 states, including Vermont.