Vermont State Police Readying for Era of Legal Marijuana

Vermont is less than two weeks away from ushering in a new era of legalized marijuana, months after Republican Gov. Phil Scott authorized rules passed by the state legislature in January.

Ahead of that change, members of law enforcement are preparing to adapt.

Vermont State Police just sent a training bulletin to troopers, as the state readies for the legalization of recreational marijuana July 1.

"It’s going to be a change," Capt. Jim Whitcomb of the Vermont State Police observed Tuesday.

The new law removes the civil penalty for possession of an ounce or less of pot for folks 21 and up, and takes away the criminal penalty for growing a handful of plants at home.

The document recently sent to troopers lays out what it all means for them, and reminds them that good partnerships with their local state’s attorneys should really help navigating many situations.

The force is also expecting operational changes, Whitcomb noted.

"We are looking at potentially purchasing items like scales for cruisers," he said. "Our K-9s are now not being trained to indicate marijuana — and that’s across the board in Vermont."

Laura Subin with the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana sees the new law as a modest criminal justice reform step, and said she expects police should have fewer reasons for searches of property.

"I really hope that this will be a positive change," Subin told necn. "There is a culture that harassed people for being marijuana users. And I also think that people of color and poor people suffered way more than others in the era of prohibition."

Many acts will still be against state rules for the tens of thousands of regular marijuana users in Vermont: including selling pot, using it around kids, and driving high.

"We’re going to be aggressive in our pursuit of impaired operators, and that does not change," Whitcomb said.

State police added that adapting to the new era of legal marijuana goes beyond the recently-distributed training bulletin. They expect their policies and approaches will continue to change, as case law is developed.

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