In a significant move, Vermont Governor Phil Scott has allowed medical cannabis reform legislation (HB 270) to become law, resulting in several changes benefiting patients. While Governor Scott did not sign the bill, it still passed into law.
The key provisions of HB 270 include:
Increased Home Cultivation Limits
Prior to HB 270, qualified patients in Vermont were allowed to grow up to nine cannabis plants at home. However, with the new legislation, patients can now grow up to twelve plants at home. Additionally, patients were only allowed to have up to two mature plants, but that limit has now been raised to six.
Higher THC Limits in Medical Cannabis Products
HB 270 also addresses the potency of medical cannabis products. Previously, a single serving of medical cannabis product could contain a maximum of 50 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, the new legislation increases this limit to 100 milligrams, giving patients access to more potent products.
Expanded Access to Medical Cannabis
Patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can now also benefit from medical cannabis treatment in Vermont. PTSD joins the list of qualifying conditions that already includes cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV or AIDS, Glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Increased Patient Limit for Caregivers
HB 270 allows caregivers to serve a higher number of patients at any given time. Previously, caregivers were only allowed to serve one patient, but the new legislation increases this limit to two. This change will help ensure more patients have access to the care they need.
While HB 270 brings about positive changes in the medical cannabis program in Vermont, it also includes some controversial aspects. One such aspect is the repeal of the sunset of the Cannabis Control Board (CCB), which triggered Governor Scott to withhold his signature.
The CCB is responsible for implementing and regulating a safe legal market for adult use of cannabis in Vermont and holds significant powers. Governor Scott expressed concerns about the lack of oversight of the CCB as an independent entity, pointing to the potential risks of future mismanagement, conflicts of interest, and other harmful impacts.
Despite his concerns, Governor Scott allowed the bill to become law, explaining that the current law does not comply with applicable law, which stipulates that members of the CCB serve at the pleasure of the governor. He expressed confidence that modifications would be made to ensure that the statutory authority of the CCB is constitutional.
Vermont has been progressively expanding access to cannabis in recent years. Medical cannabis was initially legalized in 2004, and access was further expanded in 2007. Adult-use cannabis possession was decriminalized in 2018, and retail production and sales were legalized in 2020. State-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries began selling retail products to adults in May 2022, with retailers commencing sales in October 2022.
As of June 14, 2023, HB 270 has become law, paving the way for increased home cultivation limits, higher THC limits in medical cannabis products, expanded access for patients with PTSD, and improved caregiver patient limits.