“There’s a lot of people in Vermont that have been growing forever,” McNames said. “There’s connections all over the place. There’s delivery services, people give out prizes that are edibles or certain bud.”
Now 60 and retired from the military, Girouard has come back around to cannabis. She started in October, when she got a card to use medical marijuana as a sleep aid.
“Our customers are forced into a grey market to get their seeds, to get their clones,” Raap said. “It’s our customers who are taking the risk.”
While Girouard had previously smoked pot in high school, she served in the Marine Corps and the National Guard as an adult, which, she said, “put the kibosh on that.”
“Still, to this day, our fastest growing demographic of new cannabis growers is women, 65 to 80,” Raap said. “We hear people say, ‘I’ve never grown this, I used it in college 30 years ago, I haven’t used it since, but it’s legal and I garden, so why wouldn’t I try it now?'”
“The fact that we’ve told Vermonters that you can legally possess marijuana, but we’ve remained silent on how they can obtain marijuana, raises real issues and frankly lets the black market flourish,” Donovan said. “I’ve been very outspoken, saying we need a fully regulated system where we tell Vermonters, who are of age, how they can obtain marijuana legally and how they possess it. That’s good for public safety, it’s good for public health and it’s good for consumers.”
Green State Gardener continues to advocate for Vermont to pass a tax-and-regulate law to establish a retail marijuana market. Lawmakers postponed the legislation until the 2020 session, and Act 86 currently does not provide a clear way for customers to acquire plants if they are not medical marijuana patients.
Green State Gardner’s twice-monthly free classes for cultivating medicinal plants, which have been offered since Oct. 2016, have anywhere between 10 and 40 attendees, she said.
This past winter, she bought her first marijuana plant clones from the dispensary, plus some lights and a tent to grow inside. Following her harvest in the spring, Girouard purchased seeds online for two more marijuana plants as well as hemp plants, which now line a plot in the yard of her Chittenden County home. (Girouard didn’t want to disclose a more specific location for fear of her plants being taken).
“With the advent of legalization last year, we’ve been able to massively revise our messaging to be more clear about how people can grow cannabis, to be more supportive of providing information and education around using cannabis, both hemp and marijuana, for therapeutic purposes,” she said. “We were able to really focus on bringing it out from the underground and trying to really dispel any stereotypes or misinformation there was around using, growing, the type of people who opt for cannabis.”
The duct tape fix was a piece of advice Girouard received from Green State Gardner, a Burlington business that specializes in helping people grow cannabis.
In the past, Leigh Girouard’s gardening experience was limited to the basics – tomatoes, zucchini, the occasional onion. Now, however, she is digging into a new project: cannabis.
“They’re amazing plants,” she said. Once when she accidentally broke a stalk, she put it back together with duct tape – and it survived.
Yoga Vermont owner Kathy McNames grows both hemp and marijuana as a medical marijuana caregiver. She’s not particularly bothered about the unregulated market when it’s already well-established.
Those numbers haven’t diminished, Raap said. What has changed is the language that Green State Gardner uses around marijuana and hemp. While the store’s employees used to encourage customers to become medical marijuana patients – and provided a list of doctors open to cannabis use – Raap said they can now discuss things freely.
Cultivating her own cannabis hasn’t proven to be much cheaper than buying it at the dispensary, but, it turns out, Girouard loves growing it herself.
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan has also lamented this problem.
While she purchased edible products from Champlain Valley Dispensary in South Burlington, Girouard said the cost – about $300 an ounce – drove her to consider her options.
“I’m just kind of learning about it,” she said. “The dispensary people were really pretty helpful.”
Girouard is among the first-time marijuana and hemp growers taking advantage of Act 86, Vermont’s recreational pot law.
The law went into effect a year ago this month, making it legal for Vermonters over 21 and without a medical marijuana card to tend to six cannabis plants, four immature and two mature, in their backyards and basements.
General manager Kelsy Raap said there has been a flood of people, particularly retirement-age women, who have come into the store since Act 86 went into effect.
Novelty marijuana seeds, she pointed out, can be sold as long as the retailer explicitly points out they shouldn’t be planted.
“The people who have something to share, they just switch their language around it,” McNames said. “It would be nice if the laws were a little more friendly towards the average person, but I’m just happy it’s even legal in my lifetime.”
Even after possession is legalized, there will be no legal way to buy marijuana or seeds in Vermont, unless the grower is a registered medical marijuana patient. Legalization advocates argue that people who are interested in growing marijuana probably have access already. The main difference after legalization, they say, will be the lifting of penalties and stigma.
The new law takes a hands-off approach to marijuana, and it’s not clear what kind of regulations or guidance will be available to growers on July 1.
Giguere hopes his office will be able to give advice about pesticides, though people growing a handful of plants have a lower risk of pests compared to medical dispensaries.
It’s unclear whether Vermont municipalities will be able to further regulate home-grown marijuana. Barre Mayor Thomas Lauzon, for example, has said he wants to require marijuana growers to be licensed, citing safety concerns such as fire risk from grow lights. Nothing in the new law specifically authorizes towns to impose these restrictions.
If a seed is planted in July, Giguere said growers could have a marijuana crop by mid-September to mid-October, depending on a number of factors.
“Starting in July doesn’t preclude a decent harvest here in Vermont,” said Giguere, who has worked on a regulatory framework for marijuana from an agricultural perspective.
“It’s sort of, I would say, like tomatoes,” Giguere said. “You know, there are people who grow really good tomatoes, and there are people who plant a whole bunch of plants and don’t get any.”
Under the new law, any marijuana cultivation must be done on personal property, or with the written permission of the property owner, in a secure enclosure that is “screened from public view.” Certain locations, such as child care properties, are entirely off-limits.
Vermonters will be allowed to cultivate a total of six plants per home, including up to two mature female plants that have flowered.
“I think it’s more of a psychological milestone than it is a practical milestone,” said Timothy Fair, an attorney who consults hemp and cannabis-related businesses.
It’s not legal to start seeds before July 1, and anyone caught with small amounts of marijuana could still face a civil penalty until then. Marijuana remains illegal in federal law.
Legalization begins in the middle of Vermont’s outdoor growing season, but Cary Giguere, the agrochemical program manager for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, said it would still be possible for growers to legally harvest their plants in 2018.
MONTPELIER – Home-grown marijuana will become legal in Vermont on July 1, meaning those who plant seeds on legalization day will have a short inaugural growing season.
“We don’t want people using things that’ll make them sick,” Giguere said. “You see a lot of recalls out west.”
With the exception of anything that requires the use of butane or hexane to do chemical extraction, you’re allowed to use marijuana to make other items.
Marijuana is still illegal at a federal level so getting things sent to you from out of state or via the USPS is a violation of federal law.
Will personal use on private patios of owner-occupied condominiums be legal?
On July 1, Vermont’s Act 86 makes it legal for adults 21+ to possess an ounce of marijuana and cultivate a small number of marijuana plants under state law.
Here are the most frequently asked questions we received (as well as our best attempt to get a clear answer!).
That said, there’s a tremendous amount of ambiguity which could result in issues like this one being brought before the Vermont Supreme Court.
Lawmakers said they tried to parallel the rules around tobacco use when crafting the new marijuana rules.
But Silverman said, “if the need ever arose, DPS [Department of Public Safety] would make arrangements with an out-of-state lab to perform testing on a case-by-case basis.”
As long as you store your 4 ounces of marijuana in a secure place at your home (“dwelling unit”) you’re in the clear under Act 86.
That’s a hard one.
What exactly is a “dwelling unit”? According to Act 86, a “dwelling unit” is “a building or the part of a building that is used as a primary home, residence, or sleeping place by one or more persons who maintain a household.”
But there are specific and sometimes confusing guidelines under the law that determine how people can use cannabis in the state. So we asked Vermonters what questions they have about Act 86.
The law specifies that you need to have your plants in a contained area, but nothing says what the law means by “contained.” Is a greenhouse secure enough? Is a grow tent on your back porch? Does it need to be under lock and key?
We asked Tim Fair, a Burlington-based lawyer focused on the Vermont cannabis industry. Among the things Fair suggested:
Be prepared for a civil penalty on this one if you break the new rules: It’s a fine of up to $100 your first time, $200 your second and $500 for all further offenses.
What about the possession of alternate forms of cannabis, i.e. tinctures, edibles, concentrates? [Will those be] legal to possess?
Exactly. So as we just outlined — if each of your two legal, mature, flowering marijuana plants produced 2 ounces, that would leave you with 4 ounces at your home.
The Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission is expected to report on a system for Vermont to legalize and license the marijuana market by Dec. 15, 2018.
Act 86 deals with the possession of marijuana — not sale.
The bill isn’t clear. The goal is to avoid having people under 21 gain access to the plants (or to your harvested marijuana). So on a personal level, whatever you can do to secure your plants is a step in the right direction.
So you CAN grow your six plants (two mature, flowering plants and four immature plants) outside, if:
If you’re growing your own marijuana: You’re still not allowed to leave your house with more than 1 ounce, but you can keep what your plants grow in excess of 1 ounce securely at home.
On page one it notes: “knowingly and unlawfully selling marijuana remains a criminal offense under 18 V.S.A § 4230(b)”
According to Act 86 a “public place” is defined as “any street, alley, park, sidewalk, public building other than individual dwellings, any place of public accommodation as defined in 9 V.S.A. § 4501, and any place where the use or possession of a lighted tobacco product, tobacco product, or tobacco substitute as defined in 7 V.S.A. § 1001 is prohibited by law.”
This is a statewide issue that will likely get taken to the state Supreme Court and hammered out. Stay tuned. Until then, keep those under 21 away from plants.
July 1 celebrations or events may include genetics exchanges for those interested in swapping plants.
If you’re not growing your own: You’re not allowed to possess more than 1 ounce of marijuana or 5 grams of hashish.