Marijuana Matters: How can you get pot without breaking the law?

Published: Jul. 12, 2018 at 2:52 PM EDT
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Vermont is now approaching two weeks of legal marijuana. Most adults can grow a couple plants, possess up to an ounce of weed and smoke at home without penalty. But there's a lot of gray area. For starters, how to get seeds to start when you can't buy them.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: Is there a legal way to get seeds?

Timothy Fair/Vermont Cannabis Solutions: There is not a legal way to get seeds unless you get them for free.

Fair specializes in cannabis law. His practice, Vermont Cannabis Solutions, has been inundated with calls from people confused about what they can and cannot do without breaking the law.

"I can give you some seeds. I can give you an amount of cannabis as long as it's under one ounce and that is perfectly legal," Fair said.

The law doesn't say you can do that. Fair describes Vermont's marijuana law as a law of omission.

Timothy Fair: It would be possible for someone to go to Massachusetts, purchase seeds there and bring them back over to Vermont. There's no law that states that's illegal. There's no law that states it's legal, but there's no law that outlaws it either.

Cat Viglienzoni: And so bringing it across state lines-- do you run into any federal issues at that point?

Timothy Fair: I mean, there is a federal issue. It's important to remember that all cannabis products are still illegal federally.

But Fair says federal agents are likely not checking for seeds at state borders.

There's another way to get a plant if you don't want to do that. Someone could give you a plant or a clipping of an existing one that they know is a female.

"A lot of people are using that method," Fair said.

So you've got your seeds or cut of plant-- however you've gotten it. But the next step is you've got to grow it.

"You're going to definitely need a light, you're going to need some soil, a hydroponic-type system, and you may need some heating or cooling system, as well, as the plants get bigger," said Joseph Cantiello of Peak Hydroponic Supplies & Vermont Hemp Nursery.

Cantiello's store in Plainfield has supplies starting marijuana gardeners need, like lights, tents, containers, nutrients and more. He has been growing medical marijuana for years and says the plants like temperatures between 76 and 80 degrees. One of the biggest challenges here, he says, is the weather. Hot and humid days like the ones we've had lately present a challenge for indoor growing.

"Anytime you're gardening inside and you have heat and humidity, you're going to have problems with molds and whatnot. But the biggest problem in Vermont, I would say, would be bug issues with say spider mites, aphids or thrips. Those are really bad bugs and they will damage your crop," Cantiello said.

Remember the suggestion that you get a plant from a friend? Cantiello says there's something you should know.

"The biggest pitfall I see is people getting plants from their friends. You risk getting contaminants or molds or bugs from other people," he said.

Cantiello says whether you're starting from seeds or a cut, you'll need to get your green thumb ready. And be prepared to commit some green, as well. He says all the supplies will probably run you $600 to $1,100.

For people who don't want to grow their own, some businesses are now popping up offering "gifts" of marijuana when you purchase something else. But there are risks that come with that.

We have noticed marijuana delivery services are already popping up online here in Vermont. One posting offers to "give away" marijuana with a delivery fee that's tied to how much you want, and in line with black market prices.

We asked Fair how to draw the line between gift and sale.

"Common sense, really. Because we don't have any specific laws or rules about it. There's no bright line that says, 'On this side, you're OK; on this side, you're not.' So when I advise clients-- because I've had quite a few call me about this thing-- it really comes down to, at this point, a) geographical location and b) common sense," Fair said.

Cat Viglienzoni: If you are a consumer, where does this put you in terms of risk? Because you bought a baggie, you didn't buy what was inside it. So if what was inside it turned out not to be the thing you thought you were getting, where is the consumer protection?

Tim Fair: And there is none. Because you are buying the baggie. Because that, again, would be looking at subjective intent, not objective. You purchased a baggie. They offered it for $100, you bought it for $100.

So how do you protect yourself from being scammed by "gifts" that aren't what people say they are and aren't standardized or labeled? Fair says the only way to be 100 percent sure that you're getting the product that you think you are is to grow your own.