Vermont becomes 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana market

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Vermont state capitol building

(This story has been updated with projected adult-use sales for the Vermont market.)

The adult-use marijuana club of the United States just grew to 11 with the addition of Vermont on Wednesday.

Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, announced that he allowed legislation to regulate and tax cannabis sales to become law without his signature, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The news, which sets the stage for yet more growth of the U.S. cannabis industry, was hailed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) as a major victory, especially considering that Vermont is only the second state in the nation to legalize adult use via the legislature and not at the ballot box. Illinois did so in 2019.

Recreational sales in Vermont are not expected to begin until October 2022.

Although Vermont legalized the possession and use of recreational marijuana in 2018, lawmakers at the time declined to authorize any framework for the legal production and sale of adult use cannabis.

Vermont lawmakers in September gave final approval to S. 54, which picks up where the 2018 law left off.

“The significance of Vermont’s decision to legalize and regulate cannabis sales, especially in a state with a Republican governor and through the legislative process, cannot be overstated,” MPP Executive Director Steven Hawkins said in a news release.

“This is an historic move that adds to the momentum of our movement and underlines its breadth and depth, and importantly, it comes as other state legislatures are poised to seriously consider legalization in the very near future.”

MPP’s summary of the bill can be found here.

Although Scott declined to sign into law a bill that establishes a formal framework for the production and sale of recreational cannabis, he nevertheless allowed the measure to become law without a veto.

In a  letter to the president of the state Senate, he wrote that Vermont lawmakers still have work to do.

Scott said he declined to sign the bill because it didn’t address multiple concerns he has, including:

  • An “inequitable playing field,” which he said “will disproportionately benefit Vermont’s existing (MMJ) dispensaries.” (Protesters gathered last weekend outside the capitol to draw attention to the lack of a social equity program.)
  •  The allowance of marijuana vaping products when he’s not satisfied that vaping does not pose a threat to public health.
  • Adding stricter marketing prohibitions to ensure cannabis isn’t made attractive to minors.
  • An “aggressive” timeline for the appointment of cannabis control board members by Jan. 8, 2021.
  • Increasing law enforcement funding and training to handle a possible uptick in impaired drivers.

The Vermont recreational marijuana market will build upon one of the smallest medical cannabis markets in the U.S. – only five vertically integrated companies currently are operating in the state.

Adult-use sales in Vermont  could reach roughly $230 million in 2023, according to an economic impact report issued in August by Denver-based cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg.

According to the report, recreational sales are expected to increase to just below $250 million in 2024 and about $255 million in 2025.

Business license types that will become available in the coming months will include stand-alone permits for new market entrants – for growers, retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and testing labs – as well as vertical integration.

Newcomers to the Vermont industry will be allowed only one license per category and only one location – meaning all operations will have to be housed in a single building.

John Schroyer can be reached at