If you live in Vermont and require marijuana to help you with a medical condition, then hopefully you’re aware that on January 22, 2018, Governor Phil Scott signed legislation that made recreational cannabis legal in the state.
Vermont is one of just 11 U.S. states (along with Washington D.C.) that allows for the possession of recreational marijuana.
Being that there are no commercial sale provisions set forth in the current legislation, however, it may be quite some time before Vermont residents can actually walk into a recreational dispensary and buy pot. In other words, don’t expect to be able to walk into a weed shop and buy cannabis any time soon — at least not without a Vermont medical marijuana card!
With that in mind, if you are a Vermont resident and are in severe pain and need medical marijuana now, your only real current option is to get your Vermont Medical Marijuana Card. In this article, we outline the process in a quick, convenient, easy-to-follow manner.
First, though, let’s take a quick look at some of the key stipulations under the new Vermont Marijuana Registry (VMR) program.
Medical Marijuana in Vermont: A Brief Rundown on Legislation
On May 19, 2004, medical marijuana was legalized in Vermont after Senate Bill 76 passed. The initial legislation only allowed for a select few medical conditions to be deemed “qualifying” for the use of marijuana, but since then (the law was expanded back in 2017), Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have been added to the list of qualifying conditions.
Moreover, back on June 6, 2013 Governor Peter Shumlin signed HB200, which downgraded the possession of small amounts of weed (1 oz or less) from a criminal penalty to a “civil infraction.”
As of now (under the currenT VT recreational legislation), adults over the age of 21 are legally allowed to possess up to 1 oz of herb, in addition to being able to cultivate two plants within a private residence.
Of course, that’s not to say that Vermont doesn’t still have severe penalties for the possession – or sale – of larger amounts of marijuana.
For example, a first offense possession of more than 1 oz (but less than 2 oz) of weed is still classed as a misdemeanor, and can lead to six months of jail time (in addition to a maximum fine of $500).
Subsequent offenses between 1 and 2 oz, however, can result in a potential prison term of 2 years, as well as a maximum fine of $2,000. Possession of more than 2 oz is considered a felony, and may result in a prison term up to 15 years and a maximum fine of $500,000.
As you can see, if you’re wanting to use medical marijuana in Vermont, getting yourself an official MMJ card is still by far the safest way to go. Let’s see how to do it.
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Eligibility Criteria for Medical Marijuana in Vermont
Basically, in order to qualify for a medical marijuana card in Vermont you have to be medically diagnosed with an official qualifying condition (see list below), as well as be a permanent resident of the state with proper identification and proof of residency.
There are only a handful of state-licensed dispensaries available, though, and you are only allowed to select one when you submit your official application packet (if you want to change your designated dispensary, you will have to submit a Cardholder Change/Request Form).
The current list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Vermont is as follows:
- Any patient receiving hospice care
- Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
- Crohn’s disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic pain
- Severe nausea
Also, you must have a “bona fide health care professional patient relationship” (meaning a treatment or consulting relationship with a licensed physician for at least three months) with the overseeing doctor who issues you your MMJ recommendation.
During this three-month period, the physician must have completed a detailed assessment of your medical history and medical condition, including a physical examination. If you are a patient under hospice care or have been diagnosed with cancer, terminal illness, or HIV/AIDS, however, you can avoid the three month waiting period.
How Do I Apply for a Medical Marijuana Card in Vermont?
If you suffer from one of the above-mentioned qualifying conditions and wish to be able to legally buy and use cannabis as a treatment, here are the basic steps that you need to take in order to start your application for a medical marijuana card in Vermont.
Step 1 – Download the registration packet and meet with a physician
If you are a Vermont state resident and can provide proof of residency, the first step is to visit the Vermont Marijuana Registry (VMR) website and download/print the complete Patient Registration Packet. Once the packet is completed in its entirety and submitted along with the $50 application fee (payable in the form of a check or money order), it will take no less than 30 days to be either approved or denied.
Bear in mind, however, that completing the application involves meeting with your physician to fill out the requisite forms on the packet. Your doctor or other qualifying healthcare professional (see below for a list of qualifying providers) will need to complete the Healthcare Professional Verification Form, which officially states that you have a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use.
Healthcare providers that are allowed to consult with you and complete the Verification Form include:
- Licensed physicians (MD, DO)
- Licensed naturopathic doctors (ND)
- Certified physician assistants (PA)
- Licensed advanced practice registered nurses (APRN)
Important note: In addition to practitioners in the state of Vermont, any of the above healthcare professionals who are licensed under “substantially equivalent provisions” in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, or New York may legally complete the Healthcare Professional Verification Form on behalf of the patient.
Also, any patients who are diagnosed with PTSD are required to submit a completed Mental Health Care Provider Form (in addition to their completed application packet) to the VMR.
Step 2 – Obtain a digital photo and get your application notarized
Once you and your healthcare provider have completed the Patient Registration Packet in its entirety, you will need to contact a notary public in order to get all of the signatures in the packet notarized (most doctor’s offices will be able to do this in-house).
Also, you will need to provide a current digital photo of yourself and either e-mail it to the VMR, or copy it to a CD and send it along with the rest of the application packet to the Vermont Marijuana Registry (see address below). Here are the guidelines for submitting your photo:
- Must be in color
- Must reflect your current appearance and be taken within the last 6 months
- Must be a clear image of ONLY you (not blurry, grainy, or fuzzy)
- Must be a full face-and-shoulder shot, with you squarely facing the camera (no sunglasses or hats)
- You may NOT scan your driver’s license or any other photo ID
- You may not submit a photo of a photo
[Also, please note that only initial applicants must submit a digital photo — renewal applicants only need to submit a photo if his or her appearance has significantly changed.]
To submit your photo, you can either upload the digital (.jpg) image to your phone or a computer and e-mail it to DPS.MJRegistry@vermont.gov, or you can upload it to a CD and mail it in along with the rest of your registration packet (see address below). To submit a photo via e-mail, be sure to include all of the following information:
- In the e-mail subject Line put “Application Photo”
- Include your date of birth with your first and last name in the body of the email
- Attach your photo
You will receive an e-mail verification receipt from VMR staff confirming acceptance of your photo.
If you are unable to e-mail a photo, it must be copied to a CD and mailed in along with the $50 payment and the complete Patient Registration Packet to:
Department of Public Safety
45 State Drive
Waterbury, VT 05671-1300
**Also, please note that ALL REGISTRATION PACKETS MUST BE MAILED IN – there is currently no option to submit the application online.**
If everything has been completed and submitted successfully, you will be notified in writing within 30 days whether your application has been approved or denied. The denial letter will be accompanied by details on how to appeal.
What Happens When I Am Approved for a Medical Marijuana Card in Vermont?
If your application packet is accepted, you will receive a Marijuana Registry Identification Card in the mail, along with additional steps that you must take to register with the Vermont MMP Patient Registry. Be advised that it is a mandatory requirement to register if you wish to receive protection under the state’s marijuana law.
Once you have your card, you will be able to enjoy the following advantages:
- Access to a licensed dispensary (remember you are only able to select one on your initial application)
- Permission to store up to two ounces of marijuana
- The freedom to grow/cultivate up to two mature plants
Lastly, be advised that if you want to grow your own marijuana plants in Vermont, you will need to designate your cultivation intent on the initial registration packet.
How to Renew Your Vermont Medical Marijuana Card
If approved, your medical marijuana card in Vermont will last for one year. In order to renew, you will need to get a physician (or other qualifying healthcare provider) to re-certify you before this 12-month period ends, otherwise you will have to completely start the application process over again.
Also, be advised that the state of Vermont WILL NOT REMIND YOU when it is time to renew your application. You are completely responsible for keeping track of the expiration date, as well as to renew annually. An additional $50 fee is mandatory for every renewal application.
What About Medical Marijuana Caregivers in Vermont?
Once you are registered as a medical marijuana patient in Vermont, you can choose someone to be your ‘registered caregiver.’ This individual must be at least 21 years of age, and is responsible for managing your well-being in relation to your marijuana use. You can’t pick someone who has been convicted of a drug-related crime, and this caregiver can only serve one registered patient at a time.
Additional Information Regarding Medical Marijuana in Vermont
While the state of Vermont has made the MMJ application (as well as the qualifying conditions) fairly straightforward, there are still a few things worth pointing out before you begin the process. Here are a few Frequently Asked Questions to take into consideration when applying for a medical marijuana card in Vermont:
Where can I buy marijuana in Vermont as a legal MMJ patient?
The state of Vermont only gives licenses to four dispensaries at a time, so there is a possibility that there isn’t one located close to your residence. If this is the case, your marijuana ID card enables you to grow marijuana plants; the maximum amounts are already outlined above.
What happens if I lose my card?
If you lose your card or need to make changes to the information on it (including change of home address, designated dispensary, etc), there is a $25 processing fee. Also, for any changes to the information contained on a registry identification card to be made, a Change of Information Form must be submitted to the VMR.
Can my caregiver grow marijuana for me?
Your caregiver is permitted to grow marijuana, as long as you designate their address as the ‘grow location’ on the caregiver application.
As a medical patient, how much weed am I allowed to grow in Vermont?
There are possession and grow limits on cultivation facilities in the state of Vermont. A registered dispensary is allowed to cultivate marijuana, but only to a maximum of 28 mature plants, 28 oz of what is classified as ‘usable’ marijuana , and 98 immature plants.
Final Thoughts on Applying for Medical Marijuana in Vermont
For now, medical marijuana patients in Vermont must follow the above rules, but keep in mind that recreational possession of 1 oz or less will became legal in the state back on July 1, 2018. However, you still will not legally be able to purchase marijuana from a state-licensed dispensary without a valid medical marijuana card.
Several state authorities have brought up the topic of implementing commercial cannabis sales in the state, but even if such legislation were to pass, it would likely be 2020 at the earliest before any up-and-running dispensaries were operational.
For now, the only way to legally buy medical marijuana in Vermont is to get your MMJ license, and purchase from your local dispensary (as designated on your official application packet).
If you need additional assistance or guidance in obtaining a Medical Marijuana Card in Vermont, let us help by Starting Here.