H. 819, The Bill that Would Make the Smell of Marijuana Illegal in Vermont

Vermont Made Headlines Earlier this Year Over Legislators Deciding to Legalize Marijuana

Vermont’s House of Representatives voted to legalize recreational marijuana use earlier this year which makes it the first state to legalize cannabis without voters making it happen. Now the state is working to structure rules around cannabis use and they are considering H. 819, a bill that would make the smell of cannabis smoke ticketable.

Fining people for the smell of marijuana is a little challenging to wrap your head around since the smell of cigarette smoke is not ticketable nor is the smell of alcohol exactly. Is it simply a filed complaint that would make an individual guilty of the crime?

“I feel, as a non-marijuana user, that I should not have somebody else’s use impact my life,” said South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple, who spoke in favor of the bill Thursday at the House Committee on Government Operations.

Whipple acknowledged that he has never received a complaint about odor from medical marijuana, which has been legal in Vermont since 2004, nor does his department receive many complaints about cigarette smoke.

“Arguably, it’s a stronger odor than cigarette smoke,” said Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Chittenden.

H. 819, which was introduced at the request of officials in St. Johnsbury, would give cities and towns additional authority to handle complaints about marijuana consumption on private property.

“We don’t want it to be so overly restrictive that it denies the person their right of use,” said St. Johnsbury Police Chief Tim Page, who spoke in favor of the bill.

Gov. Phil Scott’s marijuana commission supports the bill, as does the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

It is certainly undersandable that not everyone in Vermont wanted recreational marijuana to be legal and their concerns need to be heard as well. However, fining someone for the smell of marijuana seems to be full of gray area that could make the law virtually worthless or see countless lawsuits filed challenging the rule. Do you think it makes sense to fine someone for the smell of marijuana smoke if its use is legal?


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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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